30 December 2008


Well, here we are in Amsterdam, sitting in our bed at Lloyd Hotel, where we decided to have an hour of sleep at about 4pm and woke up at 11pm. Heh. So much for willpower. I can barely remember the alarm going off! And so we have decided to try to stay awake until 2 or 3, and then catch another few hours of shut-eye at a reasonable time. Yay for free wireless access at this place, so I can write to you from bed!

Flights from Melbourne to London were OK. We were in the VERY LAST ROW, which turned out to be quite alright. The first flight to Singapore felt like it was about 48930 hours long, but the longer one went by smoothly with lots of sleeping and delicious curries (mmmm, PICKLES!) There weren’t any screaming children, and despite the usual whatever kind of service and the fact our movies on demand didn’t always work (oh, Qantas, why so average?), it was fine. I watched Mamma Mia! And despite a couple of issues, which I managed to ignore slightly, I LOVED IT, OMG. SO MUCH FUN. And the crappy sound quality meant that Pierce Brosnan didn’t sound half as bad as I expected!

For a second I thought we had free wireless in Heathrow Terminal 5. I got the laptop out and all (after changing in the bathroom and drinking a cup of Earl Grey tea and sharing a sandwich from Eat). I wouldn’t have been TOO surprised, given that it is so far away from anything resembling society that it might as well be . . . well, to get there we went on a sekrit bus with a bunch of tired and/or obnoxious Australians complaining about/loving the cold (STEAMY BREATH!) for about seven hours through a variety of concrete tunnels, and I thought perhaps instead of flying they were going to bus us to Amsterdam.

Alas it wasn’t so. So we got on a half-full plane for the 45 minute flight. The squalling child in the row behind us was more than made up for as I went from side to side of the plane to watch the sun rise – it was gorgeous!

More flight pics

As we came in to land I started squeeing about the frost that was all over the grass, and the fact that some of the wee irrigation channels and whatnot had ICE on the side of them, and that the houses were all pointy and that I saw some WINDMILLS . . . I squeed quite a bit. We touched down and managed to guess our way onto the train to Amsterdam Centraal. When we got out of the station . . .


It was bright and sunny, but OMG, my face just about fell off! Dan got us some tram tickets, and the conductor on the tram was very nice – he got us exactly where we wanted to go. The room at our hotel wasn’t ready yet, but the kind staff member locked up our bags ready for us to return, and we set off to explore.

Walking was nice, even though my trousers seem to be basically the coldest item of clothing in the world – not cold as in ‘letting the cold through’ but cold as in ‘taking the cold and MAKING IT COLDER’. WTF? Tomorrow I will wear thermals underneath! Then again, what can you expect when you are walking around in weather that is COLDER THAN BEING INSIDE YOUR FRIDGE?! I kept having to make detours to crunch the frosty grass, or make finger prints in the frost on picnic tables and cars. I’m really grown up, yo.

We were in Amsterdam for a couple of days in 2005, and back then we went to a couple of museums and wandered around trying to find a vegetarian café that had been recommended (we found it, it was good). This time we were not looking for anything in particular, and it was very enjoyable. We took off in any old direction, along canals, through slightly higgledy-piggledy alleyways, into a shopping centre called SISSY-BOY HOMELAND to keep warm for a bit.

We followed some street signs to HOMOMONUMENT, which is exactly that – a kind of platform over the water of a canal dedicated to men and women who have been persecuted because of their homosexuality (but not you bisexuals and other queers, sheesh!). We saw an ad for Kiki on Steroids, but it’s only open from Wednesday to Sunday (it was Monday) and closed on the 4th of January (we’re back through on the 5th). ANNOYING!

After that, it was time for a snack, so we went to Sara’s Pancake House. Unlike the person who wrote this review, we had adequate service with a smile (and, like everywhere, the switch to English without even needing to ask), I had a plate of deliciously moreish poffertjes, and D had a kind of pizza pancake. Yes, it was overpriced, but we weren’t complaining – it was warm and we were fed!

We decided to walk along the canals back to Amsterdam Centraal, then catch the tram to the hotel. We managed that without too much hassle, wandering along the less-touristy parts, watching the street cleaners do their thing, seeing the front of a van fall off and the driver almost drive over the top of it, taking a detour through the Bloemenmarkt (so many tulip bulbs for sale!), trying to catch the last bit of the sun as it gave up its feeble attempt to rise to a point that made it look like anything more than early morning or late afternoon . . . Did I mention it was cold? IT WAS COLD!

At about 3pm, we made it back to the Hotel, got our bags and found our room. It is a lovely room – sparsely furnished, but with a big, super-comfy bed, a nice hot shower, and lots of polished floor space. Our views are quite nice – waking up at 11pm and looking out the window, we were treated to a complete change, with strings of lights sparkling over the water. The basketball court down below is now completely frosted over. It’s beautiful.

Well, I’ve just spent 2 hours editing and uploading photos, so now I will post this, then try to sleep for a bit more. Tomorrow we’re off to Ameland, where the top temperature is forecast to be OVER ZERO DEGREES! (The low is minus 4, though.) One of our Dutch relatives is driving us from Lelystad, which is very kind of her, and which might mean we get to stop off somewhere and look around. We shall see!

More Amsterdam pics here!

26 December 2008


one of the tasks i need to complete before we leave is editing and uploading all the photos we've taken since coming back to melbourne in october. you can have a look at them here as i continue to work on it!

23 December 2008



18 December 2008


We will be staying at Hotel Nicolaas Witsen on the 5th of January, between Ameland and the plane to London. OMG WE LEAVE NEXT WEEKEND! HALP!

Tomorrow I hope to get down to the Kathmandu clearance store on Smith St and find the following on special: merino thermal tops; walking socks of woolliness; corduroy trousers (I tried them on months ago, so I REALLY HOPE they still have them in my size).

Other things to think about. We have to coordinate all the clothes washing in between working Christmas hours at our shops. Which packs will we take? Which books? Shall I take some uni reading with me? Laptops? Which coats (thick coat and thin jumpers/shirts, or thinner coat with bulkier jumpers)?

All of this thinking is making me hungry!

4 December 2008


We have booked a night at Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam for the night before we head up to Ameland. Close to the station, which is nice, and a private room, which is also nice (I feel a bit wary of dorms and shared bathrooms being trans and all).

And EXCITEMENT! I am going to visit one of my online friends in Italy! I am flying from London to Bologna on the 14th of Jan, and returning on the 16th. DB will be staying in London and catching up with family and friends over that time.

Oooh, now it's feeling a lot more real. And soon! Ahh, so much to dooooo!

3 December 2008


We will be leaving on December 28th for the Netherlands, and more specifically for Ameland for a kind of family reunion thing. We're looking forward to it, although we are both so busy with uni and Christmas retail work that we haven't really thought about if much. After Holland, we will be spending a couple of weeks in England, including a long weekend in a cottage in the Cotswolds. We return to Melbourne on the 20th of January.

It is going to be cold over there in the back-to-front season! COLDER THAN COLD CAN BE. We need to stock up on winter-type things. Do any of you Northern Hemispherians have suggestions? What kinds of trousers do you wear? Will I be OK with jeans over thermal leggings? Or are jeans crap because they get damp and really cold? Lots of thin layers, or a huge coat to take off inside (because central heating is much better/more existent there than here)?

Also, does anyone have a suggestion for a good hostel (with a double/private room) or good cheap hotel in Amsterdam?

Thanks in advance!

14 November 2008


Finally, all the photos from our UK trip are up on flickr! The first page there contains only pics taken from the plane window, but if you go back you will see more of London and Brighton.

Here is one of my favourite pairs of the plane pics: could England and Australia be any more different?!

19 October 2008


we spent the week in london, and lots of time with sajee and es. on the tuesday we went to the V&A, where we saw stacks of awesome exhibitions.

my favourite was probably the musical instruments room - full of old clavichords and harpsichords, music boxes, english and portugese guitars, weird recorder-type things, harps, hurdy-gurdies . . . d and i wanted to play them ALL! i was also pretty keen on all the textile and fashion exhibits. the textile sample library is super cool!

we saw a lot of dandy clothes there, and i really wanted to buy this 'plain or fancy' t-shirt, but they didn't have the size i needed (medium). sadface.

i also found the keys and locks section really fascinating. mmm, keys! OH! BUT POSSIBLY THE BEST BIT was having lunch in the gorgeous tea rooms! (you can read about them in this picture.)

i had an AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS pot pie, with lentils and cheese and mushrooms and leek and wine and OMG. YUM.

gratuitous es looking cute in her london dress!


on the wednesday, d and i went to his grandparents' place for lunch. it was good to have a meal with them and a chat about various things as d helped them with some technical issues they were having with their tv. their garden was lovely, too.

it was quite a relaxed day for us, and we met sj and es and l in camden for a drink AND POSSIBLY THE BEST CHIPS I HAVE EVER EATEN. they were pretty damn yum! the pub was also fairly chilled, not too busy, not too pretentious, not too snooty. good work, pub. the company? A+!

d had strawberry beer. it was very sweet. i had to swap with him in the end, so that he could drink the rest of my hoegaarden.

will post about thursday, friday and saturday soon!

13 October 2008


We had to be in London before 7 for the 7:30 start of the Rosh Hashanah dinner. We were aiming to get there between 6 and 6:30. We were driving from Chester to Warrington (to see DDD and have brunch), then to Birmingham (to meet WW and have lunch), then to London. We planned to spend about 2 hours at each place, and we pretty much stuck to that. We would have been home with plenty of time had it not been for roadworks on the M1 just outside London. That delayed us for about half an hour, but we were still in with time for a shower and to dress. Yay!

Anyway, we said goodbye to the lovely F and her kittehs, filled the car with petrol, and made it to Warrington almost without incident (only right at the end did Google maps stuff us around and tell us to turn right instead of left). DDD let us in to her cool apartment, where we admired her drool-worthy bookcases, and she very awesomely popped the second episode of Merlin on D's USB. I LOVE MY FELLOW FEN!

I find this picture terribly amusing - something about the border I put on it in iPhoto just makes it!

DDD took us on a grand tour of Warrington town centre (the candy! the new shopping mall! the mad hatter's tea party sculpture! the oldest building in warrington - now a goth pub!) and out to a wee cafe for a 'healthy' breakfast.

Funnily enough, this was the place that had what was some of the best tea I was served at a cafe in the UK on this trip. Yum. I then stocked up on less (or more?) 'healthy' snacks for the rest of the drive.

After a brief chat to Zaphod the hamster (SHE IS SO CUTE!), D and I said goodbye to awesomesauce DDD, hopped in the car and drove off in the pouring rain towards Birmingham. The weather up until that point had been consistently good, and the rain amused me now because WW in Birmingham had almost died laughing when I suggested it might be sunny when we visited. BUT I WAS TO BE PROVED RIGHT! Because the rain cleared after an hour, and the sun was out as we negotiated the 18023937 roundabouts, flyovers, underpasses and tunnels to get into Birmingham, where we found a parking spot and then got lost in the Bullring - a large shopping centre. But fortune prevailed, and we made it to the designating meeting point only a few minutes late. I forgot my camera, but luckily WW had her new one, and let me get snap-happy! You can see them here.

WW, who I've known online for a while, but never been able to meet IRL before, had planned out a fabulous exploratory walk around some of the canals in Birmingham (did you know it has more miles of canals than Venice? OR SO THEY SAY!). And so we grabbed a baguette and set off. Birmingham is a relatively new city by UK standards, the majority of what we know it to be today having grown up around and since the industrial revolution (WW was super informative! it was excellent! i learnt thingumies!) Thus, the architecture was far more reminiscent of Australian and Canadian cities than other old English or Scottish cities (for example). Even the churches/cathedrals were fairly 'new'.

The canals, however, are very much a UK/European fixture. I had a lot of fun looking at the undersides of bridges, and we stared for quite a while at the cool reflections of rippled sunlight playing on the curved underbelly of one tunnel.

We learnt how to sink a canal boat, and also how to operate a lock - unfortunately after one canal boater yelled at us rather aggressively to open the lock gate for her. It took us some time to work out what she wanted.

We managed to stay out of the way of the armies of pigeons, and also out of the way of most of the tories - who happened to be having some big conference in Birmingham on that day (kind of random, after the races in Chester...) They were fairly easily avoided, as they stood out a mile! We thought one of them looked particularly like Percy Weasley.

We had a pint at a lovely canal-side pub (we sat on the upstairs balcony, as far away from the tories in the bar as possible), then toddled off back to our car. WW was a really great tour guide - and very thoughtful, because she'd even done the research and knew that one side of the canal was closed off because of the conservatives (it's to keep everyone else safe, we think). I recommend her services!

And then it was just driving back to London, freshening up, meeting people, welcoming SJ and Es back from their trip to Paris (I'm envious!), and having a lovely dinner! Rather a quiet day, wouldn't you think?!


F and A had very awesomely borrowed some books and maps and we decided to go on a decent sized walk near Chirk - mainly because I am fast becoming a bridge-spotter and the walk passed beneath the Chirk aqueduct and viaduct towards the end.

We set off after a relaxing morning full of cups of tea and showers, picked up some snacks, and drove down to Chirk. Many jokes (or chirks) were made about the name, and we were all chirking with laughter when F said she thought she could smell hot chirkolate. We soon discovered the scent was not our imagination and that Chirk is in fact home to a Cadbury factory!

The walk took us up through the grounds of Chirk castle (I believe it's one of the oldest continuously inhabited/functioning/utilised castles in the UK) on a permissive path that was only open for a couple more days, and past many sheep. We all donned our raincoats as it drizzled for a wee bit, but after another half an hour or so F and I took them off again. We were once again fortunate with the weather.

Cnce at the top of that hill, we were treated to lovely views over the Ceiriog valley, into which we then descended.

The guidebook took us up the other side of the valley wall for a way, providing some good views of the castle (I didn’t get any good pics), before we came back down and followed the river through the woods for a while. We scoffed down the yoghurt covered nuts and other snacks on the way.

Emerging from the woods, we got our first glimpses of the viaduct and aqueduct up the other end of a long paddock. As we got closer, we were lucky enough to see a couple of narrow boats make their way slowly along the viaduct.

It was very cool. You’ll just have to trust me and the pictures on this one! By the way, the viaduct is the taller and newer bridge.

After we finished, we all jumped back in the car and D drove us back to Chester, where we had a quick freshen up and then went to the local for a pint and some dinner.

A had to leave to go back down to London, so we said goodbye and spent the evening inside – F working on a paper for submission, and us reading and doing travel admin type stuff. We had a lovely time in Chester, and it was so good to see F again and to meet A. Fun-fun-fun!

You can find more photos of the walk here.