November 27, 2008

Rhône-Alpes and Lyon

After Paris, Beau and I hopped on the train to Lyon, there we were to visit a childhood friend of my Dad's, Is. Is has apparently known my dad since before she was 2. Her older brother and Dad have been friends since they were 3! Is does not live in Lyon. She frequently *works* in Lyon, but she lives in a 16th century house in a "village" with no name, in the Ardèche area of the Rhône-Alpes. It's over 2 hours drive from Lyon and way up in the mountains.

Her house is currently being renovated so plug points were scarce and the main source of heating was a lovely fireplace. She did have excellent wireless broadband though. Beau and I were given the lounge with fireplace to sleep in, very cosy and warm. I have a soft spot for fireplaces. We even got to roast chesnuts and toast marshmallows on it. Bliss!

Is also few us lovely french food, (endives wrapped in cured ham), cheese and wine. I must also record (so I don't forget and so I can attempt to recreate) that she made num salad dressing using mustard, olive oil and soy sauce! She doesn't like vinegar.

Is and her Man, N, took us out to Le Puy. It's a very cute town about 50km from where she lives and is one of the more famous starting points of the Camino de Santiago (how crazy that a year ago I didn't even know what the Camino was). It is super cute and has a lovely Romanesque cathedral (a Notre Dame, we saw a few Notre Dames) and also has a Chapel to St Michael perched on top of a "Puy" or volcanic core. Some info about Camino, Le Puy and pics, here.

N also took us touristing around Lyon proper. We saw a cathedral (to St John the Baptist and with an astronomical clock), a basilica and roman theater ruins. It's free to visit the roman ruins in Lyon. They still use the theater to put on shows during the summer. There was a school trip there the same time as us. We met up for dinner with another friend of Dad's and it was all kinda surreal to realise we had spent almost all of our time in France with Kiwis! Very good though.

Still to write about, Switzerland, more Germany and Lolland. Still to visit, Copendagen, Amsterdam, Northern Ireland and Dublin. We then go to Cork for a few days to say Hi and Bye and then it is LA and back to NZ! We'll be in Wellington in less than 4 weeks now. All so fast. I'm also trying to see if I can fit in another visit to Germany. Hmmm.

Point of Fashion:Cardied
Current Obsession: for some reason I am thinking about sewing *alot* also gardening.

Posted by giffy at 01:04 AM | Comments (169) | TrackBack

November 23, 2008


I should do a total France post, but don't think I have time/patience for it right now.

Paris was always going to be pretty cool. There's so much stuff to see there! I know, 'cause we had to do a project on it in 3rd form French, back in the day ;) However, it was super-super-super cool because I got to share it with people I've known *since* back in the day (although more 4th form), sokky and tiapia. Beau was also there, which was nice ;)

Beau and I arrived in the early afternoon and first things first, we made our way with all our luggage to the NZ embassy and voted *then* we checked into the hotel. Lovely little hotel too. Very close to the Notre Dame. Beau and I got a double bed and tiapia and sokky got two singles in what was basically another room, so that was all good. We also had a minibar, which was only used to store our bought at the supermarket drinks.

We went to the Louvre, Versailles, the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur and Notre Dame. Also wandered along the Seine and Champs Elysees. Beau and I got to introduce tiapia and sokky to the joys of such games as "Name that Saint" and teach them such awesome photo poses as the "St John the Baptist".

We drank wine, ate pastries and generally had a fabulous time. I'd recommend it to anyone, and if you are going, can I come too? I know at least 3 other people who'd be keen....

Point of Fashion: Most of my clothes are being washed right now
Current Obsession: Will it get colder? If so, when will I get to buy warmer pants?

Currently in Berlin and it has been snowing. Didn't get a good pic though. Dagnabbit!

Posted by giffy at 09:59 AM | Comments (6)

November 16, 2008

Currently in Switzerland

Today I rode on 3 regular trains, one cog-wheel train, 2 gondola (the ones in the sky, not on water), a bus, a tram and a car. I'm back where I started and it was awesome.

Mt Pilatus was also pretty amazing.

Posted by giffy at 09:27 AM | Comments (3)

November 15, 2008

Trier, Wittlich and Luxembourg City

Beau and I had a mission, to reach Paris on the 6th of November. It is a long trip from Prague and we didn't want to do it in one go, so, we had a look at what was in the middle. Germany and Luxembourg.

I emailed my lj buddy, thebatsmeow, and asked her for recommendations. She lives in Wittlich, a town in the Mosel Valley, near the border with Luxembourg. She suggested that we stop in Trier, the nearby University town. We'd never heard of it, but when we looked in our trusty guidebook there was actually quite a lot of information! More sights than Frankfurt in fact! An electorate of the Holy Roman Empire, this is the city with the most Roman ruins north of the Alps. Also, she said she'd take us to lunch in a "truckstop" that had over 12 types of Schnitzel! We were sold.

The train from Frankfurt to Trier travels along the banks of the Rhine and then along the banks of the Mosel. We had beautiful views of the vineyard covered riverbanks all the way there. The whole region was putting on a gorgeous autumn show with brilliant yellows and oranges, a huge treat for Kiwis like us (native New Zealand trees are almost all deciduous).

When we got to Trier and booked into our hotel (splurging, I know, but we actually got a great deal). We then walked walked along the river bank to the town centre. There stands the Porta Nigra, a Roman gate. We also went along the Marketplatz, had dinner and did a bit of shopping. Was nice and relaxing. I had a good long bath when we got back too. The joys of having a hotel room :)

The next day we met up with thebatsmeow and then the real touristing began! First we went to the Dom, the Cathedral of Trier (which btw has JCs robes, gifted to it by Constantine's mother back in the day). It's cool and peaceful in there. thebatsmeow told us that it gets really crowded in summer there when all the shoppers pop in for a rest ;) Next the "pink palace" aka Constantine's Basilica, where her hubby used to work. Then on to the Kaiserthermen (imperial baths) another big ruin and on to the Amphitheatre. This one had the floor restored and you could go down steps to the area where they kept the animals, gladiators etc.

Her husband then joined us and we went off to lunch at the infamous "truckstop". Yup, all that *before* lunch! I had jagerschnitzel, which was schnitzel with a mushroom sauce, and Beau didn't have schnitzel at all. I think he had venison. We also both tried the local apple cider.

After that we headed over to St Matthias. It is church and monastery, but more importantly, the church houses the tomb of St Matthew. You know, the Matthew that was in JC's posse? We've collected two of that set now (St James was spotted in Santiago).

Then we had a bit of a drive to Wittlich. thebatsmeow and I visited the local wool shop and were strong and didn't buy anything. When they heard I was from NZ though, they said they had some of our wool. lol. I should get back into knitting. I still have that half a scarf of Mum's I started over 2 years ago. Thinking I should undo it and restart... digressing.

We had caken at a local Wittlich shop. They are very generous with their cake sizes. I was pretty much stuffed. After that we all got back into the car and drove over to her friend's place to pick up her son, aka the Bug. He is awesome! 6 years old and full of pep, vim and all those other small and energetic words.

We went to their house and just talked and talked and looked at (and coveted) her gorgeous corsets (I first "met" her on an online corsetmakers community). Beau had fun bugging the Bug. I really wish I'd gotten a photo of when the Bug wanted a drink, but wouldn't fetch it himself and so Beau marched into the room he was playing in, picked him up, all wrapped in a blanket, and carried him into the kitchen! Totally as snug as a bug in a rug.

We also drank beer, lots of yummy german beer. There may also have been some Apfel Brand. Not necessarily such a good idea.

It was so great meeting not only thebatsmeow, but her family as well. We were really looked after and made to feel so welcome.

Also, Beau found and bought some trousers. We take our miracles when and where we find them.

The next day we went to Luxembourg city. Only stayed there one night. Wandered around a lot, did laundry. It is a *pretty* city. Large and cool fortifications all the way around. In the "high season" you can get in to some of them. Of course, that ended with October. It is still pretty neat. Plus, I got to speak French for the first time. So what if I'm crap at it. I'm better at French than German, Spanish, Italian and especially better at it that Czech or Hungarian! It's so good to have some kind of understanding as to what people are saying to you. Ahhhh.

Point of Fashion: The t-shirt I bought in Trier.
Current Obsession: Hospitality, we've been so blessed in what we've received.

Posted by giffy at 04:51 AM | Comments (5)

November 12, 2008

Vienna, Budapest and Prague

So, as some of you may know, I just had an awesome weekend in Paris with tiapia and sokky, but I shan't post about that (yet)! There is a method to the madness and an order to the chaos.

So, in Venice we caught an overnight train to Vienna and when we arrived it was *cold*! So, the first thing we did (after checking into our hostel) was go and buy coats. The rest of the day was also spent doing "necessary things" and we sent off a big parcel to NZ (our Venician glass etc). It's always a worry when we post stuff home, but so far we've been lucky and they've arrived. We also got in contact with a particular Austrian, some of you may remember her from such events as New Years 04/05!

Anyhoo, our Austrian is now studying in Vienna and was very pleased to meet up with us and do some touristing with us. She did have to go to university though, so we went to Schloss Schönbrunn, the Summer Palace of the Hapsburgs, without her. It was neat! Fancy decorations (and wobbley fake candles) on the inside, but the garden was cool too, with multiple mazes and a great play area. We also went into the kitchens there and had a demonstration of how to make Apple Strudel. Be warned, I shall be attempting this back in NZ!

We meet Austrian for lunch and then headed to the catacombs of St Stephen's (many bones) and the the Hundertwasser Museum. Totally got my photo taken over by the toilets. Austrian met us again, this time for dinner and we went to the University Brau Haus and I had schnitzel. Mmm.

The next day we went to the market and the St Karl's Church in the morning. Then, met up with Austrian, had Sacher Torte at the Sacher Cafe, then went to the Sissi Museum and the Schatzkammer (royal treasury). In the evening we grabbed a quick takeaway meal, then went to the Volksoper (People's Opera House) and saw Madame Butterfly. Austrian had picked us up standing tickets in the morning (only 1.50 euro each) and we were prepared to stand in the gallery, but luckily the theatre wasn't too full, so we got to sit down.

After the Opera, we went back to her place and her flatmate had made us Apple Strudel! Austrian also had some local wine. Nomnomnom.

Good times Vienna, good times.

Budapest was a bit of a random choice for us. We didn't plan to go there until I was reading in the Lonely Planet about getting to and from Vienna and saw that there were cheap and quick (3hrs) buses to Budapest. Also, it was cheap to get a double room there! So off we went, checked in, did laundry (travelling is all glamour) and went out for dinner (mmm goulash). The next morning, I got a text from my Dad telling me a couple of family friends were now living there! I called them up and arranged to meet them for dinner. Had not seen them for 20 years! Was awesome, these people were really important in my life when we lived in Pakistan.

We did other stuff in Budapest too of course, highlights have to be the Széchenyi baths (huge bathing complex with outdoor and indoor baths of various temps, some even with whirl pools), another St Stephen's (this time with bonus *hand*) and Castle Hill (with Castle and Matthias Church, with beautiful "asian" influenced painted walls).

Prague was great! Took lots of photos for the Mage Game of course. It is a really beautiful city, so that wasn't difficult at all. Could probably write lots, but this entry is getting too long (too much Vienna maybe), so I'm going straight to the highlights!

- Museum of Decorative Arts
- Wandering along the river
- Alphonse Muchas
- The Cathedral
- Walking tour
- Meeting a local at the "horses tail"
- The Ossary at Kutná Hora
- The Spanish Synagogue on the Jewish Quarter
- Randomly seeing a period movie or TV show being filmed
- Sour Cherry Beer

Point of Fashion: Sadly not Why So Sullen Edward Cullen?
Current Obsession: blogging and photos

Posted by giffy at 04:47 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 02, 2008

Firenze, Verona, Venezia

So, after Rome, Florence.

Have to say, some people raved to us about Florence, I liked it, but I didn't find to it be that special. It's a lovely city, has some beautiful buildings, great outdoor market, and nice art. Doesn't exactly make it unique in Italian cities though.

In Florence we stayed in a hostel that was a converted hotel and it had an indoor pool and a sauna. Both good things.

Important Art seen: "David" and Boticelli's Birth of Venus and Primavera.

One annoying thing about Florence: They have this thing where you can pre-buy tickets, it costs you an extra 3 euro though. The idea is that you then don't have to queue. It is an utter money earner for them. We decided to queue for the Uffizi gallery and we had to wait over 40 min to get in. For at least half this time they were not actually letting anyone from the regular queue in to buy tickets at all. /gripe

One cool thing: The view from Piazza Michaelangelo. It is totally worth walking up the hill for.

I had a great time in Verona. We were staying with the daughter of a family friend, Kit. Kit is 1/2 Kiwi, 1/2 French and I last met her when we were about 13. She was totally welcoming to us though, drove and tour guided us around, fed us and even gave us towels (we left ours in Naples by accident).

We spent one day walking around Verona and seeing the sights there (it's not that big and we decided not to pay to go into anything, we were a bit museumed and churched out) and eating delicious food. That evening she'd organised to meet up with English speaking friends and we went to a really cute bar.

The next day she drove us out to Lake Garda and we walked around the lake and had lunch at a restaurant on the lake (actually ate at a table on a wharf). It was a cool, but sunny day and just altogether enjoyable. We dozed lake-side before eventually heading home.

Also, Kit makes the *best* Caprice salad, just cherry/plum tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, olive oil, salt and pepper, maybe a bit of basil. Omnomnom.

One reason Verona is cute: it's amphitheatre is made of *pink* and white marble.

Venice is different from all the other Italian cities in one big way, no motorbikes! This is of course due to the canals, also a big difference. Long-time readers already know that we went to Venice we shopped. Venice is fun to wander and get lost in, easy to do as there are no straight "roads" pathways.

So many tourists and so much shiny, Venice is extra fun because there really is nowhere else like it. Plus, it's supposedly sinking, go now, while you can!

Still to come:
Vienna, Budapest and Prague. Tomorrow we catch the overnight bus (and then a train) to Trier, Germany

Point of Fashion: Same-old same-old
Current Obsession: Banana-beer!

Posted by giffy at 07:10 AM | Comments (1059) | TrackBack