July 04, 2002

27/6/02 Versailles, France (Phillip)

27/6/02 Versailles, France (Phillip)

Let me tell you about the fun time I had getting here and to catch my
$7 flight! I was running really late getting from the center of
London to the airport. But I thought I had given myself enough time
to get me there an hour before take off. I was wrong... trains were
running late and slow. I eventually got across on the tube to the
train station I needed for Luton.

Well, such as luck would have it, the trains were running late. When
I was sitting in the station I recalculated how long it was going to
take and panic set in. I realized that I would make it to the train
station near the airport only 15 minutes before departure! Not
good... There was nothing I could do except sit on the train and pray
for a delay! When I finally got to the airports train station
it was 10 minutes before departure. I ran off the train, pretty much
already resigned to missing my flight, and ran to find a taxi (the
free bus was empty so it wouldíve had to wait for all the passengers
from the train). Luckily a taxi appeared from nowhere and I flagged it
down. Frantically I said "Airport departures fast!", but the driver
turned around and asked if I had ordered the taxi. So I lied..... He
took me to the airport where I jumped out and ran as fast as I could
still praying for delays... Of course there were queues and no line
for the Paris flight (it was now 8:45 and my flight left at 8:50!). I
ran to customer service and he casually asked me to wait. Watching
the time tick by I did. Eventually he sends me over to an empty line
and says that sheíll help me.

Again the lady was very calm, eerily in fact, but then I found out
why, my plane had been delayed by 2 hours and so I could still get
on! I thanked God and retreated to departures.

Thatís not even half the story though! Meanwhile; unbeknownst to the
passengers. The airport terminal in Paris was closing! There was an
identical flight to Paris leaving at the same time mine was supposed
to (it was delayed from a couple of hours prior). So they patiently
waited (Flic says she was trying to look as pregnant as possible)
until everyone had debarked and finally was informed that was the
last flight and the terminal was closing. The later flight (mine) was
cancelled.

Unfortunately that wasnít true. I did try to phone my mum to let her
know my plane was delayed but her phone was constantly busy. So I
gave up and sat down. Chatted with some of the other bemused
passengers, most were panicking because by the time we arrived public
transport in Paris Airport would be finished.

Anyway, we finally board about 2 hours late. Easyjet has open
boarding meaning you just grab any seat you want. I managed to lose
the lady I was talking to in Departures; she wasnít so nice, and
spotted a gorgeous girl and sat next to her (donít even act surprised,
you know me better than that :) So I chat to her and first she seems
nice. But then I realize that she seems to hate everything, America,
England, babies, flying etc.... its still an amusing flight though.

By the time we finally arrive in Paris, the terminal is closed. The
wee bus from the plane drops us at immigration except there's no one
there! The French start banging and yelling and my friend translates.
I suppose its all that post-world cup anger built up in this
country :) Some police finally arrive and let us through to an empty
terminal. and no sign of Felicity.

Well, I already knew I had forgotten to bring her number, so as my
fellow passengers fight for taxis or a place to sleep, I find an ATM
and get cash. Except of course phones here donít take cash! My friend
(never got her name, oops) offers me her phone card but eventually we
get my credit card to work and I phone my mum. No answer, not good.
It was after midnight in London so I knew she had to be there and I
kept calling. Eventually I get her and get Flic's number. My mum tells
me that everyone had been told that the flight was cancelled! Called
Flic and we decide itís easier for me to get a taxi (she lives about
50km from the airport). I have my French friend, who I appreciated at
this point, explain to the driver where to take me and I say goodbye
to her and off I go. Finally arriving around 2am! Long day!

Well thatís 5 countries Iíve been in in less than a week! Thinking of
going to Belgium tomorrow for a day. John arrives tomorrow night so
I'll show him Paris this weekend. I just hope his flight is better
than mine!

Have a wonderful day and donít forget to watch the World Cup Final!

Posted by Admin at 12:49 PM | Comments (0)

29/6/02 Versailles, France (Phillip)

29/6/02 Versailles, France (Phillip)

Well John made it okay from London, came in late late at night but we were at the airport waiting. Of course Easyjet was up to form by being late again! not to fond of that airline....

We woke up Saturday morning with the intention of heading into paris to do the sights. Somehow between leaving the apartment and walking back to get his glasses we altered it to go to the Versaille Palace (Chateau Du Versailles) instead. Had a great day huddled in with the tourists. Quite an amazing place, but the beautiful buildings were certainly overshadowed by the gardens. I had seen the gardens before during my sisters wedding in December, but it was great to wander with John and reminiss.

That night he had a friend in paris who had invited us to a Party. After an insane ordeal trying to find it (right in the middle of the latin Quarter) and even worse trying to find a store selling alcohol after 9pm, we did arrive. Cheap bottle of wine in hand we traded it for beer once we were there. Met tons of cool people, some brilliant Germans and a few french. The last Metro back to Versailles was at 1am, but the girls convinced us to stay past that. I think we hopped in a taxi at 4 or 5 am and since I didn't know the street address, got dropped at the palace. We did find our way home.

10am we were back on a train into Paris. I dragged John round all the signs, the Eiffel Tower, Champs Elisse (sorry for the spelling), Le Louvre, West Bank, San Micheal, etc.. etc... The tour was interrupted by the World Cup Final which we watched some of in front of the town hall (surrounded by half of Brazil it seemed), and the second half in a cafe. A great weekend. (Can you tell I'm summarizing!?!)

Posted by Admin at 12:55 PM | Comments (0)

1/7/02 Brussels, Belgium (Phillip)

1/7/02 Brussels, Belgium (Phillip)

Caught the high speed (200km/h) train from Paris this morning and arrived in Belgium with Felicity (my sister). We showed up with no idea of what to see or do (spur of the moment thing) but managed to get her fed and then we headed out. All I really knew was that my favorite beer was belgian (Hoegarten), they make good chocolate, and one of the European Union bases is here. With that knowledge we drunk my beer in a wonderful cafe near the parliment sipping brilliant hot chocolate!

Well, okay we did see a billion lovely churches, they seemed to have a Romanian Orthodox feel. Very welcoming (as you could see from the homeless sleeping on the floors of the church). Since they speak French having my sister was wonderful. We saw the town square which has amazing buildings. I don't seem to get tired of them. Travelling around on the metro which is by far the best way to get around every city. you don't have to panic like you do on buses trying to figure out where you are, and the stations are much more convenient than train. Plus just a wee bit cheaper than Taxis!

I did wander over to see the EU buildings. Very snazzy, skyscraper like, shiny. Nothing like Parliment or Congress but I suppose that makes sense since its all so new. It was a pretty sidmal day weather wise, but I rejoined Flic in a cafe (being pregnant she can't jump about like she used to!) and we headed back to paris.

Really a great day, I think I might have to take advantage of Paris's wonderful train links more often. I was temped just to catch the onward train to Amsterdam.

Posted by Admin at 01:02 PM | Comments (0)

4/7/02 Sunny Glasgow, Scotland (Phillip)

4/7/02 Sunny Glasgow, Scotland (Phillip)


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Flic and I caught the early morning plane to Glasgow from Paris this morning. Poor ben (my brother in law) must have been glad to get rid of us! Anyway, got here and was met by my favorite uncle: Gordon. And guess what? it wasn't raining! We took Flic to her friend Collette's house and Uncle G immediately dragged me to the rowing club. My family is amazing, I'm pretty sure uncle's G's first words to me were: "Have you got your rowing kit?".

We went out for what turned out to be a brilliant row, my hands are still bleeding! For an old guy he sure pulls hard. After that we momentarily stopped at his house for lunch and to see my lovely aunt noreen. Then off to the hills for a walk in the green scenery. I got to seek advice from the wise old guy about my future, girls, my travels etc... He always gives great advice.

We stopped off in a georgous town called Luss. There were quite a few tourist buses and I absolutely understand why. Luss is situated in a valley surrounded by the best of Scotlands scenerey, looking out towards Ben Lomond and next to Loch Lomond. We had some amazing soup and I got some Irn-bru (Scotlands national drunk behind whiskey).

Great day! Meeting Chas (brother) and Flic tomorrow.

Posted by Admin at 01:06 PM | Comments (0)

July 11, 2002

7/11/02 Glasgow, Scotland (still) (Phillip)

7/11/02 Glasgow, Scotland (still) (Phillip)

Just a quick note, off to Dublin late tonight but I havenít posted in ages. I've almost got the rest of the pictures up and working but that'll be on hold till this time next week (when I get back here). I've been amazed by how much fun I've had in Glasgow. I suppose I never realized how much I missed it until now. I've been rowing everyday and my hands seem to bleed whenever I move them! It's like Stigmata or something at this point :)

I got to see both of my best friends here last night and after a whole bunch of crazy coincidences saw just about everyone I knew in this city before eventually crashing at my friend's family's guesthouse (too far from my uncle's house) right next to my old school.

Uncle Gordon has me working pretty hard, carpets being fitted so lots to be done but in exchange I get lifts just about everywhere I go and therefore not spending much money.

I've done lots of family visiting stuff which is good since I see my relatives so rarely.

However, I couldn't bum around here forever (no matter how much I want to) and so it's back on the road tonight. Flying to Dublin and Iíll spend about a week in Southern Ireland. Every Irish person I know is not in Ireland so I'll be meeting some friends of my brothers and maybe heading to a massive concert in Dublin (oasis, papa roach, prodigy etc...) then off to Cork, Limerick, Kilkenny and back to Dublin for another $10 flight to Glasgow next week. Then down to London the following day to hopefully meet another friend from America (an Aussie though) and over to mainland Europe before heading up to Denmark/norway etc.

Phew! Hope you're all doing great, hope to see you soon.

Posted by Admin at 05:10 AM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2002

12/7/02 Dublin, Ireland (phill)

12/7/02 Dublin, Ireland (phill)

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Dublin's been okay so far. Granted I've only been here for 24 hours but I have some time to write this journal in my book so why not? As I got off the plane late last night I bumped into josh and he was heading to the same place as me. Except he hadn't booked ahead and when we eventually found the hostel it was very much full. Anyway, since we both were pretty much in Dublin to see the Guinness tour we arranged to meet the next day. The Dublin YHA is massive, packed and not overly helpful. My room had about 12 beds in it. The snoring was insane so I decided during my waking moments to get the heck out of the there the following day.

Josh showed up at 8 or 9 am and we set out. Of course we went straight for the Guinness Storehouse for the tour. Nothing like what I expected, all hi-tech and flashy recreations which is very different from the smaller breweries I toured this year. The tour actually was pretty decent though, I suppose it has to be flashy to impressive the tens of thousands who visit it weekly. Needless to say, the highlight was bound to be the pint of the black stuff you get at the end. Rumored by everyone to taste much better in Ireland and specifically fresh from the factory. I gotta tell you though, although the view was great (26 stories in a sky bar above the brewery with spectacular views over Dublin) the beer didnít taste different! I think you can still be hung in Dublin for saying that! Don't get me wrong; it was, as always, brilliant, but I didn't notice any major difference. Of course this means I'll have to keep tasting it while I'm in Ireland just to make sure I didn't get a bad pint or twenty :)

What else could we do in Dublin, yes yes, they have beautiful gothic and mid-evil buildings and books, but first things first, another tour. This time it was at the Jameson Whiskey (notice the 'e' we're in Ireland, whisky is from Scotland, whiskey is Irish) Tour. I'm not the worldís biggest blended malts fan, I prefer single malt and that's all Ireland has: single malts. Unlike Scotland where there's an abundance of whisky's to blend Ireland on has a handful. Tour was good, followed by the tasting :)

Posted by Admin at 02:37 AM | Comments (0)

13/7/02 Dublin, Ireland (Phill)

13/7/02 Dublin, Ireland (Phill)

Josh and I visited the temple bar district last night which is Ireland's most famous street for bars. Basically it's like Austin's 6th street with lots of performers and whimsical drunk Irish entertaining the crowds. Today I had intended on catching a bus to County Wicklow which supposedly has some of Ireland's best scenery. Unfortunately I slept to late to do this. I've moved to a bed and breakfast where Josh is staying; finally got a good nights sleep last night. Anyway, it was just me going to Wicklow since josh wanted to do more of Dublin, but after missing my bus I was doing Dublin myself. I really enjoy just wandering around looking at things and getting lost. I ended up in a really bad neighborhood while looking for fish 'n chips so I had to make my some-what Scottish accent, very rough and Scottish :) Not great fish 'n chips either!

I saw most of the major sights in particular The Book of Kells which is one of Ireland's treasures. It was the first translation into Gaelic of the bible and is kept at Trinity College, Dublin. Had to queue up for ages to see it but it's definitely a sight to see. Beautifully decorated, hand drawn characters (the opening letter of a paragraph generally is a graphic pictorial summary of the main events of the paragraph).

Anyway, back to temple bar at night. Seems like everyone in Dublin is getting married and the girls are all out having Hen Nights. All dressed up and doing crazy stuff, basically humiliating the bride but in good spirits. I can't imagine the state of these girls when they arrive at the alter the next morning!

Posted by Admin at 02:45 AM | Comments (0)

14/7/02 Kilkenny, Ireland (Phill)

14/7/02 Kilkenny, Ireland (Phill)

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Grabbed a train to Kilkenny this morning, back on my own. I had read about a youth hostel near this city that is actually in a haunted castle, I had to come stay there! Kilkenny, the town, is a gorgeous gothic town. Tiny cobbled streets in the shadow of an immense castle (not the one I'm staying in) so did the tour of that. One thing I've noticed is that there is an insane amount of Italian's here. Bus after bus of tanned school kids pour off.

Getting to my hostel (castle) was really difficult. Itís actually 15 miles outside of town and no buses are running today. Ended up negotiating a taxi with a local (Mick) who was chatty the whole way. Pulled up to the castle, it's awesome! The owner is actually Scottish (so there's even a Scots flag flying up top). The castle is set in the middle of a major valley surrounded by amazing Irish scenery. I met a couple of Australia
n's (David and his mum) who were traveling Ireland and invited me to go with them to a local pub that night. When we got there this was indeed a 'local' pub. The social heart of the tiny village it was in. By far the friendliest pub I've ever been in, it was filled with older locals chatting and socializing. Plus, the reason we were there is that they throw together some Irish music every week. Not intended for tourists at all the twenty or so locals were singing and dancing and dragging us to dance with them. I did notice two younger girls that David and I made headway for. He had that Australia
n accent going for him and my accent (which has gotten very Scottish I think) wasn't quite as unique! Anyway, we chat with the girls and they invite us to go with some of the local people our age to a Disco in a neighboring town. We had to go.

Turns out there are only one taxi in this whole area, the same one (Mick) that I had caught earlier. This isn't exactly a rich area and we pile in a mini van (10 of, pretty squashed) and we chat to the 6 guys who have joined our party. Tell you what, if there's a fight tonight I want these guys on my side! Dead friendly in that charming Irish way and totally welcoming. Pay our 20euro's each to get in and walk past the rather hefty security. Once inside I really realize just how rough this area is! But we have a great time dancing etc... Watched a few fights and almost got beat up by some girls boyfriend. Definitely a night to remember!

Anyway, disco shuts at 3am and everyone is kicked out. Did I mention there's only one taxi? Yeah, a hundred or so people sprawl out into an area and thereís only one cop to control it all. Basically these are all neighboring towns who are visiting the only place to hang out for miles so it's quite a 'lively' bunch :) There's no taxi around so everyone is frantically calling to find Mick. Poor guy. When he does finally show up he's surrounded by people he knows basically trying to convince him that they should take him first. The drive to the next town is about 20 minutes each way so you can understand why people don't want to wait hours for their turn.

Our girls kind of get swept aside by some others who know Mick much better. Dave and I are pretty frustrated at this point because there's absolutely no way to get out of this situation, plus the girl who's boyfriend isn't exactly liking me keeps trying to talk to me while he growls at me. Crazy, crazy stuff. Eventually Dave and I see that Mick's defiantly not going to have room for us (there's 12 people currently in his minivan) so we think we might be able to play the dumb tourists and convince the cops to give us a ride home. However, the other girl (sorry I can't remember any names, bloody Guinness) grabs us across and tries to talk her way into the van. I do the same and remind Mick who I am and that we had chatted that day. Boy am I glad I was nice to him and he pushes us in the back of van. So 14 of us are crammed in this van and the people who were already werenít exactly happy we were there! The guy next to me is wearing a Celtic Football club shirt (my team) and so we chat about that and instantly we're accepted. Boy am I glad I support that team!

We make it past the cops who turn a blind eye to this rather dangerous crowded van and make it home. Boy was I glad to see my bed that night! But absolutely the highlight of Ireland. I mean we really were Irish for the night; Lonely Planet guidebooks can't give you that!

Posted by Admin at 03:02 AM | Comments (0)

15/7/02 Cork, Ireland (Phill)

15/7/02 Cork, Ireland (Phill)

On the train this morning from Kilkenny to Cork I changed my plans to basically pass through cork and go to Kilarney for the Ring Of Kerry. I managed to get to the one thing in Cork I wanted to see, the old Gaol (jail) before catching my train to Killarney. I was rushing around Cork but it was worth. The Gaol was great, the audio tour was great because it gave you the real stories of real prisoners. The graffiti on the walls was a bit scary since many of the people killed/held there were killed by the British simply for being Catholic. I did a good museum in Dublin that really showed how little I knew about the unrest in Ireland. I never really knew the details and just brutal it all was.

Basically had to run the 5km to catch my next train to Killarney. I'm so glad I only brought my tiny backpack!

Posted by Admin at 03:06 AM | Comments (0)

15/7/02 Kilarney, Ireland (Phill)

15/7/02 Kilarney, Ireland (Phill)

Now why would I want to Kill Arnie?? :)

Another blooming journal, sorry, since I'm sitting on so many trains I have plenty of time.

I was going to skip the Ring of Kerry because I imagined the scenery of Ireland to be very similar to Scotland but everyone I met in the last few days said to do it. I suppose I'm glad I did but it really just looked like Scotland with Irish accents. I wandered around the town and found the most charming church I've seen yet. Every place I've been in Ireland I've seen the churches and friaries, but this one was something else. I think the coolest part is it's not just a catholic cathedral; it also hosts the Episcopal and Presbyterian masses. Very cool.

In fact I'd say the best part of Kilarnie were my roommates (Catherine, Christine and another who's name I forgot): Three lovely German girls. Sat up chatting with them both nights, definitely a fun bunch that I'm going to meet back up with in Berlin in a few weeks.

Posted by Admin at 03:11 AM | Comments (0)

18/7/02 Glasgow, Scotland (Phill)

18/7/02 Glasgow, Scotland (Phill)

One piece of advice: Don't sleep in Dublin Airport. Terrible night. My flight was at 6 this morning and since buses don't run until 6:30 I had little choice but to sleep at the airport. I found a great wee corner by the rental car outlets to crash. Except, due to the bomb blast in Israel last night there was a delayed flight that arrived at 3 in the morning. I had just dozed off to sleep when out of nowhere appears a planeload of rather upset Jewish folks demanding cars. Couldnít get back to sleep.

I might head to the Golf Open Championship in Muirfield (any golf fan surely is watching it on TV, Tiger Woods is losing I think) tomorrow and then to Nottingham, England this weekend for the British Rowing Championships to watch my mum and brother's crew's compete.

Posted by Admin at 03:15 AM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2002

7/21/02 Nottingham, England (Phill)

7/21/02 Nottingham, England (Phill)

Just a quick note. The Golf Open was cool, weather wasn't as bad the day I was there. Managed to get in as a youth (under 21) which lowered my ticket price from US$50 to $20 :) Saw Tiger Woods up close while he was still doing well in the tournament. Got to hang out in a fancy tent while the rest of the people stood in the rain. A friend of uncle Gordons, and in fact the same guy who generously hooked me up with an apartment in Hong Kong worked this deal too! Even got to go cruising on his boat that evening.

Spent the last two days camping in Nottingham for the British Champs, my mum and brothers crews did well and the weather held out. I actually slept rather well last night in the tent, I suspect I was still worn out from Ireland!

Got back to my mum's place tonight to figure out the next step. I've been looking at Africa
but not until the very end of September. Probably off the European continent in the next week, I really don't feel a rush though, I'm kinda enjoying seeing my country and family (which I've pretty much deserted for years now!).

See, told you it was a quick one!

Posted by Admin at 02:03 PM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2002

7/25/02 Cardiff, Wales (Phill)

7/25/02 Cardiff, Wales (Phill)

So I've managed to hit all the four countries in the British Isles (okay I'm not counting Northern Ireland, so sue me) in the past 7 days. Have to admit though, I wasn't exactly blown away by Wales. Cardiff was really just another industrialized town. I actually was so not interested in the few sights there were that I went and saw a movie instead.

I did manage to find another thing in London that I hadn't seen before: 'Britain at War', which is basically an old subway station that was used as a shelter during WWII. A really great 'museum' but not in the traditional sense. You walk through and there's smoke and shouting etc... The walls are lined with British Propaganda posters and newspapers from the day. The one funny thing though was as you walked in an "Evening Standard" (London's newspaper) billboard greeted you with that dayís headline of 'War Breaks Out'. It was all faded to look like it from authentic. Well, it looked authentic until I looked closely and saw that it had www.eveningstandard.co.uk printed on the bottom! So either it wasn't real or the British forces had email 70 years ago!

Was booking a flight to Barcelona for Monday except it turns out my aunt is driving to Paris that day, so I can catch a lift there and catch an onward train to Barcelona and then Italy.

Posted by Admin at 03:20 PM | Comments (0)

July 31, 2002

31/7/02 Athens, Greece (phill)

31/7/02 Athens, Greece (phill)

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Well, after a quick decision yesterday in Paris I traded in my ticket to Rome for one to Athens. Arrived this afternoon. Seems like I canít escape the European heat wave! Problem is that with such a wee bag that I'm carrying, I had to choose which clothes to bring. I chose to aim at the cold weather since I'll be in Scandinavia the longest. Bad choice! :)

Initial impressions of Greece? Well, it's pretty hectic. However, on a positive note, every girl is gorgeous! Of course, all the guys look a bit shifty but I think that's just the Greeks for you....

The place is pretty much packed right now so accommodation is a bit of a challenge. I managed to get an all right place in the center of town. Great location, but the manager gave me a 10-minute talk on how I couldn't drink alcohol if I stayed there. Do I look like an alcoholic? I'm not an alcoholic (well, I suppose that's exactly what an alcoholic would say?)

I did get a kebab/gyro (depending if youíre from the US or the uk) and for US$1 I have to admit it was really good. It was a street side vendor who I swear could've passed for a pimp in any other country!

Hopefully my friend will show up here on the 2nd. I'll probably hop on a boat to Bari in Italy on the 4th, then onto Rome and up to Germany. Well, that's the plan, but we know it never seems to stay solid for long!

Anyway, just checking in. Mum I made it here okay, you can sleep now :)

Posted by Admin at 07:30 AM | Comments (0)