27 July 2010

They Like to Wear Orange

Early-ish we packed up the van and headed north to Amsterdam. We decided to not spend too much time sight seeing on the way so we could a full two days at our destination. Wuustwevel was our lunch stop just near the border. Brooke ordered one of the best ham and cheese toasted sandwiches I have ever tasted and I ordered something that looked interesting in Dutch and what arrived was a platter of tasty tidbits with ketchup and mustard.

We arrived in Amsterdam mid afternoon and began looking for a camp ground. The one we were recommended had no spaces for camper vans but the lovely person behind the counter gave us a list of other sites within the city and suggested one near Gaasperplas. Which was actually cheaper and nearer to a train station so we were very happy.

We decided to stay at our site for the first night and hit the town bright and early on Friday.

What a day it was. We picked up a walking tour brochure and began our stroll around town. They love their museums in Amsterdam. There was Amsterdam's historical museum, Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank's museum, Rembrandt's museum, Van Gogh's museum, the sunglasses museum and a sex museum are the ones that come to mind. They also love their architecture and their architectures. With each stop on our walk pointing the design of some building and the revolutionary guy who did it.

The slant on most of the buildings are little off putting. Most of the buildings look like they have been drinking too much and are using the building next to them for support.

We had a traditional Dutch meal at McDonalds for lunch to make use of their free Internet and their power points to recharge a few batteries.

One of the biggest challenges of the day was to pronounce the street and canal names. Reguliersbreestraat was my favourite. Other notable mentions were Sint Antoniesbreestraat and Kloveniersburgwal.

We headed home for a quick shower and a change of clothes however three beers each and two hours later it was half past eight and we were finally back in town and heading for the Supper Club for dinner.

What an experience that was. Thanks to Parker and Gin for the suggestion. For seventy Euros you get five courses and entertainment served to you whilst you are laying back on large pillows on very soft mattresses. The host and the wait staff were both eccentric and flamboyant. And look out Sydney because Howie (the host) is heading south for our summer.

Once dessert was consumed it was midnight. We headed home as Saturday was promising to be a bigger day than Friday.

So Saturday started off with a bang. We slept in and had a late breakfast. Then we decided to wait until after lunch to head into town. After a cooked lunch (we're getting much better at gas top cooking) we went for a walk around the park next to the camp grounds and by 6pm  we had arrived in town. The evening consisted of a pub meal then an eye opening walk around the red light district of Amsterdam. I lost count of the amount I times I saw guys trying to take a sneaky photo of one of the window girls only to be met with a closed curtain with a middle finger pointed straight at them.

So by ten we were back home and in bed for the drive to Hameln in Germany to visit the town of the famed Pied Piper.

23 July 2010

mmm.... Chocolate

Brugge was fantastic.

We caught a tram to Oostende then the train to Brugge. We almost managed to accidentally scam first class seats but conductor wouldn't let us.

It is great place to just wander around. Particularly if you are a fan of churches. Food is a tad expensive though.

Most of the streets are cobblestone and there are some quaint little alley ways you can get lost in.

Waffles with ice cream are a must and I could of easily spent my remaining Euros trying the different kinds of chocolate. One strange chocolate find was the chocolate milk in soft drink can.

I saw a dead ringer for Harold off neighbours. Today was also the first day I had to pay to go to the toilet.

We ended the day in Oostende after spying The Australian Ice Cream Company. We wanted to see how good we make ice cream, Funnily enough it tasted just like Haagen Daas or Copenhagen Ice Cream shops. I guess it is easier to sell if people think it is from another country.

Tonight was out first experience cooking in the rain. We've now added a tarpaulin, tent pegs and rope to our shopping list.

Tomorrow we are heading to Amsterdam for a couple of nights. Should be fun. 

How small is the world?

Today began early. Really early. And with a small amount of sleep. I clocked up three hours Brooke managed only one. We got to the Dover ferry port pretty quickly. Traffic before 4 in the morning is pretty light. After a brief passport scare (Brooke packed mine into her backpack so I had no idea where it was) we joined to queue to load our car on the ferry


The English Channel was kind to us. The swell was flat and weather was calm so in short time we were docking at Boulogne and our driving holiday began. Immediately I was driving on the wrong side of the road. The guy in the oncoming car had a sense of humour and put in a few over exaggerated swerves before I sorted myself out. A word from the wise about approaching round-a-bouts when driving on the right hand side of the road: always remember to look for approaching traffic on the left. I lost count the amount of times I looked right first. Also Have someone in the passenger seat who remembers to do these things.


On our way north we stopped at Cap Gris-Nez, it looked like the remnants of a German World War II base. There was a few cement bunkers and in the distance there looked to be two large cannons pointing towards England. We also managed to catch up on some much needed sleep in the car park.


Around midday we continued our journey north and stopped a place called Sandgate (can't remember the French spelling of it) for some pizza and mussels or as Brooke described it “the biggest lunch in the world.” We then headed towards Oostende looking for a place to stay for the next couple of nights.


What we found was a camp ground called Albatross just south of Neuipoort . Wow. Just wow. If Belgium had trailer trash then this is where they live. One site had people selling cheap DVDs and other odds and ends. Another advertised the areas most famous singer and his troupe of transvestite dancers. I don't know if he lives in that trailer but it would at least be a relation.


After setting up we headed to the beach. Well what Belgians call a beach. The sand was grey, full of stones and shells with a strong odour of rotting fish., Kids were digging sandcastles but with proper shovels and spades, the surf lifeguards were watching people get pounded by the half a foot swell and the unmistakable sound of guys selling ice creams. Just like any Australian beach.


After an unsuccessful food shopping trip (stupid Travelex Cashpassport not being accepted everywhere or stupid Europeans adopting new style credit cards with chips for extra security earlier than Australia) we headed back to camp for some dinner of tinned tuna and vegetable pilau flavoured rice which tasted better than it sounds.


Just as we were packing up for bed we struck up a conversation with the couple at the site next to us. Helen noticed our Australian accents and she being an expat decided to say hello. What happened next only shows how tiny the world really is.


Helen, over 24 years ago, went on a school tour to New Zealand where she met a guy named Peter from Switzerland. Peter was on a student exchange program in New Zealand and his host family managed to get him in the same tour group. They kept in contact through writing letters and eventually Helen went to Switzerland on holiday and she never came back. They now run a dairy farm together.


As I mentioned earlier Helen grew up in Australia. She grew up in Coffs Harbour. She has even spent some time in Yamba, staying in Doncaster, the units beside where my parents have a place. Her sister, Ann-Marie also lives in Yamba. Ann-Marie is currently studying to be a primary teacher at Southern Cross University and she and I just did our last prac at the same school.


So after all of that we happen to be staying in the same camp ground as neighbours. How small is the world.


Off to Brugge tomorrow. Should be fun. I think some Belgian chocolate and waffles might be consumed.

Pray, Hope and Keep Your Daks On

The last few days in London were fantastic. If I only knew the exact locations we went.

On Friday Brooke took me to a French restaurant that only serves steak and chips with their own special sauce. The only decision you have to make is how you want your meat cooked. You can't booked ahead and have to line up outside and as it is so popular there is usually always a queue even in the middle of winter.

Caught up with Bec Stanton on Saturday and met Luke (her soon to be husband). I finally found a suburb that looks like the ones on TV.

Dinner was at an Italian restaurant at the West End.

We spent Sunday buying supplies and other odds and ends for the Europe Trip. I did see Hyde Park, Kensington Palace, The Marble Arches and a stupid amount of people all spending their money at place called Primark. It was Christmas Sales in Australia and apparently it happens all year.

Monday we picked up our van from Wicked Campers. It is a beautiful Toyota Tarago (or whatever they call them here). Brooke has named it Haley as it has been painted up like a comet. Thankfully we weren't given the one with the stoned Super Mario on it or the one with the massive ding down the side.

Also I am feeling confidant about the journey now. Wicked Campers have asked Saint Pio to protect us on our journey. D-Generation's The Late Show fans might remember Pio as the Padre who Tony Martin and Mick Molloy pointed out on one of their vox pop segments. As they pointed out the Padre says to “Pray, hope and don't worry.” which was better than his last saying which was “Pray, hope and keep your daks on.”

We took the scenic route out of London towards Canterbury and Dover, we saw the London Eye, Big Ben, the British Houses of Parliament and the Tower Bridge. This wasn't by choice (misheard instructions from the Sat Nav).

So now we are sitting at our first camp site at Hawthorn Park outside of Dover waiting for the Ferry tomorrow to head to mainland Europe. We've changed our plans for where we are headed. The route is now Belgium, Holland, Germany, Poland, Austria, Croatia, Italy, Spain, France, Germany and then back to England.

Really should go to bed soon. The ferry leaves at 5am and check in ends at 4am so our alarms are set to three.

Chester

I was such a nanna last night. In bed and asleep by 8:30. All the sleepless travel finally caught up with me.

Funnily enough I am sitting in another pub writing this, The Brewery Tap in Chester. Tudor style but not built in the Tudor period according to the tour guide that walked me around Chester. I felt sorry for the tour guide. I was the only one signed up for the tour. It was great for me. She took me to sites that she usually don't let in tour groups.

I saw my first squirrel. It was fishing McDonald's fries out a garbage bin. After a few goes in it found a half eaten apple then darted up a nearby tree quite excited about its find.

The Chester Wall is pretty impressive. The Romans really knew how to build things.
I think I have seen most of Little Britain's characters down the high street.

Tarporley is a great little town. It really feels like the town in Midsommer Murders. I'm feeling a little insecure as it is usually the visitor who is murdered or is found guilty of the crime.

National Lampoon's European Vacation

During this trip I am planning to write a blog post every day.  A lofty goal, considering my track record for all my previous posts, but I think it is possible.
I am currently sitting in the Forrester's Arms in Tarporley having my first UK pint (no idea what so don't ask). A couple has just walked in wearing matching pale pink tops, dark blue denim jeans and dark maroon leather shoes.

The flight here was not too bad. Royal Brunei are alright as airlines go. The only let down is the amount of time it takes to get to Heathrow. You stop at Banda Sari and the at Dubai on the way.

Customs was non existent at Heathrow. No matter what corridor (declare or non declare) you took you would find your self outside the airport with no one having inspected your bags. Due to this I had three hours to kill at Euston before heading up the Chester and Tarpoorly. I played the Monopoly tourist game of taking as many photos of landmarks that appear on the Monopoly boards. So far I have King's Cross Station, Euston Road and Pentonville Road.

I better head back to base. Dinner should be ready by now.

Catch you on the flip side.
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