Results tagged “Blah” from Eurasia 2012

Had a very slow day Thursday. I woke up at 5:15 when I thought the lamp was on. But it was just the sun shining through the bathroom window onto it. Closed the door, but didn't really sleep anymore.

So just took it easy. Stu enjoyed the big bed :)

At 10:30 I suddenly realised I hadn't gotten ready and I wanted to repack my suitcase. Blah. So was a little bit rushed to check out by 12pm.

After we checked out we wandered around and found an Excelsior Cafe for drinks and nibblies.

Then walked through the park and up to the Tokyo Government building to go up the tower.

Then back down to find some late lunch (just maccas :( we were almost out of money).

Back past Excelsior Cafe for another coffee for the sweetie, then upstairs to the hotel to get on the bus to the airport. We decided that the "Limousine" bus at 3000 yen per person would be much much easier than dragging my broken suitcase all over Tokyo on the trains, and not that much more expensive than the NEX anyway (our passes had long since expired). It was door to door and saved quite a lot of hassle.

Got there with reasonable time to spare, so went to the Qantas lounge, and sat in pretty much the same place as last time - even the plane was at the same gate! (different plane though).

I was near the back in a row of three, but fortunately only one other person on the aisle so noone next to us. The sweetie had booked separately and got himself an exit row seat for more legroom (although the thickness of the door made it look like it actually had *less* room?) Noone directly next to him either.

Niether of us slept :(

I watched Margin Call and Inception and some Big Bang Theory.

Couldn't eat much dinner (too many snackages in the Qantas lounge). They turned the cabin lights on at 4am :( Trying to match the sun in Japan or something?? And breakfast came a little while later.

Tried out the new egate thingie at immigration, but the machines didn't like either of us - probably because of our glasses reflecting or something - will take them off next time.

Customs wasn't too bad. Had to show them our wooden stuff. There was a sign up saying they were filming Border Security there today, but alas didn't see them.

Then over to the domestic terminal. Had a short break in the Qantas lounge.

A very full Dash 8. Had a lovely view over Sydney, flying over the St George and Sutherland Shires, then south of south west.

Arrival, picked up bags and got a lift home (thanks heaps Dave!!)

My computer's keyboard, mouse and monitor are so strange and huge! The house is freezing.. we might have turned the heater on for the afternoon.

So fifty six days of travelling for me. Wow!! Saw so much amazing stuff. A couple of blahnesses, but overall a great trip :)


Distance covered on the GPS: 8066.9 km + 284.5 km
Steps walked: 10296 + ?
Photos on the Canon: 47 + 3
Photos on the Sony: 60 + 135
Videos: 1

Closed the blinds, had aircon that worked, a room that faced northwest, and sheets as well as a blanket. You'd think I'd have had the perfect sleep conditions. But alas, it still took me ages to get to sleep and felt like I was awake for ages early in the night. Sigh. But at least slept til after 7am which was good.

Had breakfast downstairs. There were no checks at all and the place is open to the airport terminal, so really anyone could just come in and eat breakfast there - bizarre!

Checked out and wandered across to the checkin gate for the planes. Turns out the JAL ticket I'd bought was already the boarding pass. Checked our bags, but didn't need to print anything else. Weird! Some confusion as we were trying to figure out how to get boarding passes, when in fact we already had them!

Flight was pretty dull. Clouds just after takeoff til just before landing, except for a small gap in the clouds looking down to the coastline at Sendai where the tsunami last year hit the worst. Sad..

Landed, got our bags, then had to face dragging my broken bag all the way across Tokyo :( The sweetie was the bestest sweetie ever and carried it and/or rolled it on top of his bag. I carried his carry-on bag.

So a monorail ride to Hamamatsucho then it was either a Yamonote line train or a Oedo subway to get to Shinjuku. We took the Yamonote line simply because we were super familiar with it.

Then the long painful walk to the hotel :(

We found the building ok, but walked around it trying to find the actual hotel :( Was quite blah by the time we found it upstairs. But you pay a premium for this hotel for a reason - there's pretty great service. They saw us coming and ran to grab our bags and help us check in, so that was nice. The sweetie thought we should get an upgrade to a corner room. Well we've already spent a fortune on this place, so why not heh.

Got to our room and it's super awesome :) Well the view is super awesome. And there's aircon that seems to work and a huge bed and a funky bathroom area. Hung out for a little while but decided to go out and find some food (it was mid-late afternoon but we still hadn't had lunch).

Wandered towards Shinjuku and ended up in the "geek" area with Yodobashi Camera and other such stores around. Decided to have dinner at a little place there - where you have to decide what you want before you go in, pay on the vending machine, and take the tickets inside for your food. And it turned out to be a super tasty chicken dish that I really really enjoyed. Who needs Michelin stars when you can find great food for under $10!

Stopped in at a Family Mart for some supplies, then came back to the hotel and enjoyed the view while using the internet :)

So after a drinks interlude, we went up to the New York Bar, a-la Lost in Translation. Had a couple of drinks and listened to the jazz band with front row seats.. a very pleasant evening :)


Distance covered on the GPS: 937.1 km
Steps walked: 10118
Photos on the Canon: 150
Photos on the Sony: 111
Videos: 0

Have I ever mentioned that heat in hotels is a major pain? Overheated again last night. And woke up with the sun at 3:45. Grunt.

Bit of a slow start. I headed out a bit before nine to withdraw some money and pick up some supplies for breakfast.

So didn't get out of the hotel til a bit after ten.

Headed up to the Asahiyama Zoo, quite a good little zoo outside of Asahikawa. The enclosures for the penguins and seals (and other animals too) are well thought out and you get some *great* views of the animals. For the penguins there's a tube you walk right through their tank, like the sharks at Darling Harbour. And the seals have this vertical tube they dive through right in the middle of this room you walk through. Sometimes they stop in mid flight and nose the perspex, so there's all these people in a room with a seal floating the middle! Extremelly cool!!

The polar bears looked a little miserable in the heat (or maybe they were just bored). Only gripe about viewing them was you queue for ages in a dark stairwell for who knows what. Turns out there's a little "bubble" you can stick your head up in the middle of their enclosure. OK but not really worth waiting in the heat.

But yeah otherwise a great day and took over four hundred photos in four hours.

Then Japan took another opportunity to completely rip us off. We needed to get to Chitose airport, so programmed the GPS with either the back roads or the expressways. The expressways were 30km longer but a bit quicker, and it quoted us 2250 yen, according to the GPS for the tolls. OK so we did that. And then got quite disappointed that the speed limits on the expressways were 80 km/h .. ???? I thought they were meant to be 100. The road certainly would have handled it. But all the signs we saw said 80. Now it *might* have been that the 80 was only for temporary stuff, like lanes merging in, and the default limit was 100. But if that was the case it certainly wasn't obvious. Give me Australian speed indicators any day (which always make it clear what the speed limit should be when it changes). And give me Australian traffic lights too - everywhere else I've seen doesn't have nearly enough lights. Sometimes in Japan there's *one* light, which is pretty easy to miss. Europe was pretty bad too - there's nothing on the far side of the intersection, so pedestrians can't see what's being shown to the traffic coming. Anyway, where was I? Oh, Japan ripping us off again. The expressway from Asahikawa to Sapporo cost us 3800 yen!!! That's like $50 for 100km of road. Absolutely ridiculous. And for not much time saving either! We should have taken the back roads!!! Blah :(:(

But got out to the airport car rental place without any other dramas (filling up with petrol near the airport at a full service petrol station). Returned the car, and got their shuttle bus to the airport.

From there we just needed to find the airport hotel where we were staying the night. It's right in the domestic terminal which is pretty easy. Sadly no view of the planes from our side of the hotel.

Checked in, then went down to the airport food court to get some dinner and watch the planes while we ate. They even have free wifi! Win!

Then back to do photo stuff and blog.


Distance covered on the GPS: 209.4 km
Steps walked: 11793
Photos on the Canon: 406
Photos on the Sony: 26
Videos: 4

Stoopid east facing windows and stoopid sun that gets up at 4am and stoopid blinds that do nothing to keep out the light or heat :( Blah. So it was very hot in our room. So didn't sleep all that well :(

Breakfast was at the hotel. We'd chosen "western" breakfasts the night before (fish and natto for breakfast? no, don't think so). But they brought out all this food. I couldn't get through it! Saved my bread roll and sweet roll for later.

Then we headed up into the mountains again.

Stopped first at the dam at Lake Chubetsu. Cause I like dams. Have I mentioned that? :)

Then into the national park and up to the Asahidake Ropeway.

But first, 500 yen for parking. WTF? When just down the road was a public car park that was free. Grunt. So already feeling ripped off. Then to go up the cable car it's 2800 yen. Each. !! WTF?? I was way pissed off at that point. But we went up anyway and I grumped the whole way :(

Still, it was a fairly nice place at the top. We went up for a wander up into the snow and mud around the walking tracks and saw the little lakes and the fumaroles. Stu definitely enjoyed it. I would have more if hadn't been so badly ripped off. *sigh*

Had some snacks while waiting for a cable car down.

Then we decided to just go to Asahikawa rather than try and do any more mountains.

So got into town and negotiated city streets and got to the hotel ok.

Had a bit of a relax for a little while.

Then we decided to head out to find some dinner. We were going to get ramen (which this place is famous for), but as we were getting ready Stu looked out the window and said "there's a festival" and I'm like "Japanese street food!!!!!" So that's where we went.

It was just in this little park near the river. All around the outer edge of the park, and through the middle were stalls setup selling food and toys. We had some *amazing* food, as well as some average food, and some pretty good food. Love love love Japanese street food :) Not really sure what the festival was for. We asked at the hotel, she said something about the transition between spring and summer. Couldn't find anything online about it, but not really sure what to look for! heh. We were probably the only gaijin there (we certainly didn't see any others).


Distance covered on the GPS: 128.2 km
Steps walked: 10696
Photos on the Canon: 143
Photos on the Sony: 39
Videos: 0

Pretty good day today (although still didn't sleep too well - too hot).

After breakfast had a bit of a slow start getting out the door. Had to plan what we were going to do first.

I waited outside the hotel with our bags (we didn't really feel like carrying my broken bag all the way to the car rental place). And then the sweetie arrived and off we went.

Fortunately this trip, not only do they drive on the correct side of the road, but we got an automatic, and the blinkers are on the correct side!! Yayy for Japanese cars :) (London in 2010 had the correct side of the road, but a manual and backwards blinkers).

So pretty much just headed straight out of Sapporo (after getting a coffee for the sweetie at a Scottish Restaurant we passed). Decided to go via quieter roads rather than expressways.

Except Hokkaido has ridiculously low speed limits. Roads that would be 60, 70, 80 in Australia were all 50, or maybe 40. It was impossibly slow, and we were pissing off the locals, who were all passing us any chance they could. After ages doing this we gave up and drove more to conditions (but still slower than the locals!). I suppose their limits are for when the conditions are bad, which is sure to be much of the year, or to reduce the number of wildlife accidents. But this was the middle of a clear sunny day. Whatevs.

So basically just drove slowly to Furano. Stopped at a dam on the way. Because I like dams.

Had more Scottish Restaurant for a late lunch, then went and checked into the hotel. Crazy design to the room. The bathroom has a big glass window next to the bed, with a blind on the outside! Weird as!

We headed straight out again, deciding to drive up into the mountains.

Drove up towards Tokachidake springs.

The "lavendar road" would sure be pretty in a month's time. But for now it was just green.

Saw a few foxes around the place. Nat would have loved them heh :)

At Tokachidake springs got out and walked up a trail a bit (I was a bit worried about getting eaten by a bear). There was still snow around!

Drove around a bit more, ending up at Bogakudai for a nice lookout (although looking straight into the late afternoon sun).

Then down the hill to the "Blue Pond" which is a famous tourist attaction in the area. The parking lot and one-way paths testify to that. But when I got there I was very disappointed. The "pond" appears to have been created by the damming of a creek, flooding the area and killing a bunch of trees. There's no flow through the pond so it's a stagnent pool full of dead trees. Yuk. OK so yes the water is a pretty blue (in the right light, sadly we were there a little too late in the day), so if you look at the right angle you can see live trees and not the stagnent muck, it's not too bad. If you want pretty blue lakes, go to Canada.

Then back to the hotel (and stopped at another dam).

Had dinner at the hotel. I had some wagyu beef which was *awesome* and the freshest, nicest asparagus I've ever had!

And finally we stayed up *very* late doing our washing (last load of the trip though - yayy!!)


Distance covered on the GPS: 205 km
Steps walked: 6936
Photos on the Canon: 278
Photos on the Sony: 15
Photos on the Video: ?
Videos: ?

Well today was pretty good until the wheels fell off .....

At 4am the sun was rising and it was pretty bright. At 5am the sun was streaming into the room. Grunt. This country could really use daylight saving!!

Breakfast at the hotel.

Then we hopped on a tram three stops up the road and a short walk to the Hakodate ropeway (cable car). Apparently this is one of the world's top three views at night (after Hong Kong and Naples). Sadly I didn't know this until it was too late. Oh well. Next time.. hrmmm. But even during the day it was pretty nice.

Came back down and wandered past some of the churches.

And the brick warehouses.

And was a little spun out by a plaque showing the height of the 2011 tsunami. Looking around the area you'd never know though.

Continued wandering, back through the morning fish market (it wasn't morning anymore but there were still a few things open).

And finally back to the hotel to pick up our bags.

Hakodate is a pretty user-friendly town. There's maps and signs all over the place, including in the pavement. I won't object if we ever have to come back here :)

Headed to the station. The next train was about an hour away. Couldn't get a reservation (they were all taken). Found some lunch at the station then went to get the train. Luckily we got seats no problems.

The train trip was quite nice. A lot of it was around the water so we had a pretty good view. It reminded me a lot of the day we took a train around the Kii peninsula.

Arrived in Sapporo and was walking to the hotel when one of the wheels fell off my suitcase :(:(:(:( This is going to prove very problematic over the next week :( What is it with me and luggage this trip? First my backpack, now my suitcase :( Blah.

Got to our hotel and checked in. It seems it must be a Chisun rule to have *tiny* rooms, not just an Osaka thing (our Loisir hotel in Hakodate had much more space).

Then wandered out to find dinner. Went to a little soba place hidden inside a building. Was pretty tasty.

Then back here to charge things and figure out what we're going to do on this island..


Distance covered on the GPS: 325.7 km
Steps walked: 11336
Photos on the Canon: 173
Photos on the Sony: 35
Videos: 0

Pretty quiet day today.

Slept in (til 9:18! gah!!). Had a slow start, then wandered up to the station. Got some breakfast at Lotteria, and activated Stu's JR pass.

Then we headed up to Kyoto. It was actually about midday by this point. On the way we looked out the window and it was *pouring* down rain. Great, we didn't bring wet weather gear because the weather forecast was for 10% chance of rain. hrmmmmm.

At Kyoto we actually had trouble finding the right station exit, which is a first, we've never had problems before. Then we needed to find a toiley. Then it was raining some more so we stopped for more coffee for the sweetie. After 1pm now.

At this point the sweetie thought we should catch a taxi to Kiyomizu-dera, rather than walk or (heaven forbid) negotiate the buses (the sweetie hates buses, and Kyoto buses are a special form of hell). Wasn't too bad, only ~1100 yen.

So Kiyomizu-dera. The rain had stopped so was a relatively pleasant, although slightly humid, wander around the place. Queued to have a drink from Otowa spring.

Then wandered back down the hill.

Walked up to Gion and by this point it was about to start raining again. We went looking for somewhere to eat but most things (that we saw) were closed, it being nearly 3:30pm. That and they hide restaurants in this place so they're not easy to find. After walking all the way through we gave up and walked all the way back to Starbucks and had a sandwich. Oh well.

We were tired so caught another taxi back to the station, and back to Osaka.

Rested for a while. I went out and got some random food from the place we got some food from in 2009 which is just a kitchen with a counter at the front.


Distance covered on the GPS: 91.9 km
Steps walked: 12534
Photos on the Canon: 56
Photos on the Sony: 26
Videos: 0

So today marks the longest I've *ever* been away from home (previous record was USA in 2004 at 42 days).

Last night I thought I'd try and do a web check-in for my flight from Billund to Copenhagen. So I googled the airline to find it, and saw some articles about it going bankrupt. Uh-oh. Clicked on the airline's webpage, and there's a single page there in Dutch. Got Google to translate it, and sure enough, they went out of business a couple of weeks ago and all flights are cancelled. You're freaking kidding me right? No!! Fail!! Well at least I found out the night before and not in the morning!! And thanks heavens for http://www.rejseplanen.dk/ which is a brilliant site for working out transport around Denmark.

So this morning I had breakfast and checked out, then hopped on a bus to Vejen. 58 kr - not too bad.

At Vejen got to the platform and some Russians were also trying to get tickets to Copenhagen. They got themselves a family ticket. I just got an adult single. 346 kr. Fricken ouch!! Good thing the machines take credit cards! So the train came but it was a tiny little train of three carriages, one set aside for families and NO FRICKEN LUGGAGE RACKS!! (except overhead ones). So I had nowhere to put my bag. And all the seats are groups of four, not two. So me and my suitcase took up three seats! Denmark trains fail! Fortunately it didn't get full enough to need the extra seats, but it came very close! Was very stressed about it for most of the trip :( I also finished my book - sad making! (both the book itself and the fact that I've finished it).

Arrived in Copenhagen, tried to figure out how to get out of the station in the direction I wanted (getting grumpy at Denmark already). Got out and had to walk the long way round the station to get to my hotel. Checked in (yayy!!), dumped my stuff and headed out again. Found the entrance back into the station that I probably wanted on the way out. But there's no sign, just a small doorway. When in doubt, follow the crowds. I'll try and get a picture of it tomorrow.

Then to try and get a ticket on the metro. The ticket machines are very confusing and the signage is worse than Paris. Much worse. I asked a local what sort of ticket I needed (apparently a 2 zone, even though I was staying in the zone 1, 24kr) and managed to get on the right train.

So off to Osterport and a walk to find the Little Mermaid (I also walked around some of Kastellet which is this little star shaped fortress which is pretty cool).

I knew there'd probably be a few people, but I thought the statue would be a little bit further out of reach and you'd view it from the shore. Turns out you can go right up to it, as dozens of people from multiple tour buses were trying to do. hrmmm.

From there on it was a really long walk zigzagging my way back through Copenhagen.

Past our good friend Mary's house..

Into the Marmonkirken (just missed a dome visit)..

Up past the Rosenborg palace..

Down Kobmagergade and up into the round tower (I was almost not going to go into this one. It was only 25 kr but wasn't really in the mood. Luckily I decided to, it was pretty worth it)..

Down Ostergade to Nyhavn to see the Lego buildings..

Back past Christiansborg..

And Tivoli Gardens (oldest amusement park in the world, but you have to pay even to go into the place)..

And the Rathaus.

So a pretty good effort for about five hours of wandering.

Then I tried to find dinner. Prerequisites: had to have a Carlsberg, and had to be under 100 kr total (I'm rapidly running out of money and needed the rest for the train tomorrow). I couldn't find anything that met these requirements other than getting the beer at 7-Eleven and a burger from The Scottish Restaurant. Sadly (or happily) the beer was cheaper than Maccas!! So weird.

Something wierd happened to my phone when I got here. It's somehow got a time that is *very* wrong - not just a different time zone, but even wrong minutes. So it's nearly three hours out. Very strange.


Distance covered on the GPS: 315.6 km
Steps walked: 22251
Photos on the Canon: 120
Photos on the Sony: 111
Videos: 2
DKK Spent: ?


Had a bit of a sleepin this morning. Sort of. Really it was just a slow start. I'd originally been planning to go find this bridge - http://www.neatorama.com/2011/12/03/the-twist-bridge/ - but it was all going to be too much effort.

So instead I talked to the sweetie and read news feeds and eventually headed off to go to The Hague.

2.50 for a tram from The Hague HS to the MC Escher museum! This museum/gallery is housed in an old royal palace! Which is very beautiful all by itself, including a whole heap of newer chandeliers in various shapes. The ground floor had some of MC Escher's early work, the middle floor his later work, and the upper floor some fun with optical illusions.

Then I decided to see if I could make to Rotterdam to catch the 14:15 Kinderdijk cruise. It was about 12:40. hmm.

Firstly I walked by the little lake in the middle of the Hague. Then hopped on a tram, but made a mistake with the numbers, and assumed it went to the station. But it didn't. So got off after one stop and had to wait for a tram that *did* go to the station. The long way :/ Gah. So got to the station and didn't have to wait too long for a train. Got into Rotterdam and then had to go find the Metro. But they're doing all these station works and signs for the Metro dried up :( Gah. Finally found it and then was trying to figure out tickets. But the machines were all in Dutch. So went to the info desk and they said probably just catch a tram, they're upstairs. So up I went, but they were doing work on the tram lines so there were no trams. Just a sign in Dutch saying something about where they were going from. But I couldn't read it and didn't know really where I was or where they were talking about. Gah. So went back down and said halp, and he told me how much it would be for a two hour disposable chip card (3.50). So went to the machines and figured out they had a touch screen which could be chosen in English. Yay! So got my ticket and raced down to the train. Two minute wait so not so bad. Got to Leuvehaven and then had to race down to the river. It was 14:03 at this point. Saw a sign for the cruise so was racing down and saw the boat so headed for that. But then I had to go back to buy a ticket! Gah! But it all worked out in the end and made it with a couple of minutes to spare! Phew!

So the cruise was very peaceful and relaxing. Met a couple from Australia (Debbie and Gary) who were living in England. So sat with them and chatted the whole way.

When we got to Kinderdijk we went up to the shop and they had bikes for hire! 2.50/hour! So we all hired a bike! Best. Idea. Ever. So we biked up the canals and looked at the windmills and all the gooses. Very very cool.

Got back to the boat quite hot from lots of cycling.

Continued chatting all the way back to Rotterdam. A lovely afternoon.

Got off and walked up to see the "cube" houses. They were pretty cool.

Then I thought I walk through the markets. But everything was being dismantled. In fact apart from cafes nothing was open, it being after 6pm. So kept walking, following the crowds and eventually the signs to the Centraal station.

And back to Amsterdam.

Got back and did my washing - it takes *forever* to wash and dry. Got some falafel and salad from the place downstairs and ate it in my room. This hotel/laundry are certainly conveniently placed! A very late night again :(


Distance covered on the GPS: 211.3 km
Steps walked: 15594
Photos on the Canon: 194
Photos on the Sony: 122
Videos: 3
EUR Spent: ?

Well something from yesterday didn't agree with me and I woke up in the middle of the night feeling completely nauseated. After a while I decided I needed to go be sick if I wanted any more sleep. So did that. Why is it the only night I really need a toilet it in my room I don't have one?

Got up and decided to use the fact that Europeans don't believe in mornings to go early to the Anne Frank House. Got there at 8:35 for a 9:00 opening and there was already a bit of a line (Australians and Americans either side of me). Got in at 9:10. It was very cool to be able to see the place Anne and her family and the others actually lived in. No photos allowed anywhere though. Not a huge amount of content so you can move through it relatively quickly (I spent a bit over an hour there). Funnily enough I've never actually read the book, so bought a copy on the way out. Also tried to get into the courtyard in the middle of the block, but couldn't find an entrance, so couldn't see the annex from behind.

Came back to the hotel to drop off the stuff I'd gotten, then headed out again to try and get a Holland Pass. Eventually found the place that sells them downstairs from the main tourist office outside the Centraal station. But I think any Tours and Tickets place will sell them.

First item on the agenda: a canal cruise! It was an hour long cruise that went out into the large area of water on the other side of the station, then back through a series of canals. So that was very pleasant (except when there was no breeze - it was actually quite hot in the sun today!).

Dropped back into the hotel again, and got some fries with mayo from Manneken Pis downstairs. After the glowing reviews about Amsterdam fries, I have to say I was a little underwhelmed. These were big and chunky and just average really. Give me McDonalds fries any day. Mayo was nice enough but the best mayonnaise ever is still Kewpie mayonnaise. I asked for a small but Europe doesn't seem to believe in small anymore either, so I couldn't even finish them.

Next up, got on the Tours and Tickets bus tour. But it was pretty average. Not helped by the fact that my headphones didn't work so the whole first half of the trip didn't have any commentary. Part way through they stop at a diamond factory (Gassan) for an infomercial. Still, it was cool seeing some *very* nice diamonds.

Then had to try and figure out the tram system here. The terminal at the Centraal station is pretty pathetic. The only maps they have up are regional ones, none for just the city. So unless you know which tram you needed to catch you were screwed. Fortunately I did know which tram I needed, having researched that beforehand. You can buy tickets on the trams. They recommend these chip cards (you can get a daily for 7.00). But I just wanted one or two trips (2.70 each) so just got a single. It's valid for one hour, but it's paper so didn't look like it had anything electronic in it. But it also didn't have any printing on it to say what time you got it, and the driver didn't say anything about authenticating it. As I got off I waved it front of the reader and it did actually do something. So no idea if I checked on or off. But it didn't matter cause I wasn't going to need it again.

My destination in fact was the Heineken Experience. It wasn't crowded when I arrived, but as I was walking through the history section there was this big group that made it all a bit unpleasant. Fortunately they moved off a bit faster than me. After the museum bit, you go into the rooms where the big old copper tanks are. Then past the horses that are still employed there. Then you walk through all these rooms of silliness really. Things like a "be the brew" "ride", make your own bottle label, rooms of just various videos playing, a wall of bottles with lights behind it etc. You get two free drinks (250mL) on the tour, so had those, but wasn't much fun drinking alone. Just used their free wifi and read news feeds. And finally through the shop. But didn't look around because I wanted to go catch the shuttle canal boat, which takes you to the "Heineken Brand Shop". But really I just wanted the canal ride. They even served beer on the boat which was a bit of fun.

Got to the shop but it was all *way* overpriced for what is essentially advertising for the brand. And the "free gift" was a branded photo of yourself. The idea was you take the token from the brewery and get a coin to use in the photo machine. Some others said they were going to just keep the coin, so that's what I did too.

Got outside and asked someone which way to Dam. So started walking. After the three beers I'd had I decided this was the way to appreciate Amsterdam heh.

Finally got back to the hotel then went out for dinner. Found a place that had what looked to be reasonably priced food. But the "teaser" menu was different to the menu you they give you at the tables :( So when I thought I was ordering something small, like I'd seen on the teaser menu, I actually got something much bigger. So I couldn't finish it and was charged 5 euros more for it. I was pretty pissed off. Enough to get on TripAdvisor and rate it poorly. And not blog last night. Grunt.


Distance covered on the GPS: 36.8 km
Steps walked: 15674
Photos on the Canon: 240
Photos on the Sony: 73
Videos: 4
EUR Spent: ?

Well I can say I've done Paris. And have no burning desire ever to return. It's big and noisy and overcrowded and full of rude tourists.

And the metro system is painful. From line changes requiring walks of hundreds of metres to lack of signage.. give me London any day. Today I entered a station only to find that that was the entry for one platform only. To go to the other platform would have meant leaving the station and using another ticket. In the end I just got on a train and swapped directions at the next station down. And several times I've come to an intersection in the maze of tunnels only to find no Sortie (exit) sign anywhere. At one point the only way I could figure out how to get out of the station was way off in the distance there was the little green man for your standard fire exit sign. And just for fun the little carnet of tickets you buy don't get "eaten" by the machines when you're done. So you end up with these things that you can't tell if you've used or not. Some of the machines print a date/time on the ticket, but others just a bit of purple.

But mostly it's the crowds and people that turned me off. Rude people that push in, push past or just stop in the middle of narrow footpaths. Queues for everything. Blah. Having said that I did meet some nice people too, like the group from Sao Paulo Brazil, or the lovely couple from Brisbane (the only other Australians I heard in the whole city were at D'Orsay today).

So where was I?
hrmmm

Yeah so had an easy day today. Only 24000 steps, down 14000 from yesterday's 38000 ..

Was hoping to have a bit of a sleepin, but got an SMS at 7am which woke me up.

Up, blogged yesterday, got ready, breakfast at the Scottish Restaurant.

First item on the agenda was St Chappelle. Probably about a fifteen minute wait to get through the security check, then fast track into the church. I was in a weird mood, a bit over Paris, so yes it was very pretty and all, but didn't fully take it all in. Didn't spend much time there, and they were restoring some of it anyway so a quarter of it was covered off.

It was blue skies and sunshine at this point, so I wandered around the back of Notre Dame to get it in the morning light, then trained it over to the Eiffel Tower. Sat in the park and had some chocolate and pondered the tower for a while.

Then trained it back to Concorde.

First up, the Orangerie. Eight big Monets in two rooms upstairs, and a bunch of stuff downstairs.

Then over to the Musée d'Orsay. I wandered through the majority of the museum and saw about three paintings I recognised. Call me uncultured but I'm just not an art person.

So both museums do visual bag searches, but then force you to cloak backpacks (so why even bother searching them??). Both have next to no descriptions in English. Both are relatively quick to enter with the museum pass. Both I was pretty meh about.

So on another train up to Pigalle then a short walk (I could have switched trains and gone to Blanche but switching trains is always a pain) past all the sex shops to the Moulin Rouge. On the way I walked down the middle of the street which is a tree-lined walk way. Would have been nice except for all the creepy guys just sitting there watching, waiting. Yuck.

Got a couple of photos, then walked back the way I came, and continued on to Sacre Coeur. I was tired and initially didn't think I'd bother going up. But decided to anyway. One of the most crowded places so far. Decided to go into the basilica. Not too long to get in (it's free entry). Like Notre Dame you kinda just go in and around in a loop then come out. But no photos allowed in this one. Afterwards decided to go climb the dome (6 euro). More steps, I must be mad. But the view was pretty spectacular (aside from it being hazy and grey) and it was remarkably uncrowded. So very glad I did it.

Came back down, then walked back to the hotel.

Read some news feeds while it rained (the rain sounded lovely outside the window). When it let up I went for a wander to find some dinner. Wanted french fries since I hadn't actually had any since I got here. So got a steak and fries. Well the steak was nice, but the fries were these soggy things that I wouldn't have called fries. Oh well, frites avec mayo await me in Brussels and Amsterdam.

Back to do photos, blog, and figure out what I'm doing tomorrow. The dodgy hotel I got in Amsterdam charges 4 euro/hour for internet, but I think that is by the minute, so might get away with just one hour for the whole three nights.


Distance covered on the GPS: 23.2 km
Steps walked: 24364
Photos on the Canon: 135
Photos on the Sony: 83
Videos: ?
EUR Spent: ?

Pretty overwhelming day today.

Got up early and headed out of the hotel, grabbing some takeaway breakfast on the way, and off to St Pancras. I thought I'd left myself plenty of time, but as I was walking through St Pancras I looked at my watch and realised checkin closed in like a minute! Slight panic and a bit of a run, but made it just in time. Through security and passport control and into the Eurostar lounge. Had about a minute there before they opened the train. Sadly I got an aisle seat, and the girl beside me slept the entire way - #grunt. Apparently further back in the train there were *heaps* of seats. Le sigh.

So two and a quarter hours later arrived at Paris Gare du Nord. Pretty good time for 490km!

Walked to my hotel - it's like two minutes from the station - best location ever! Tiny little room, but perfectly adequate. Luckily I was able to check in and dump my crap.

Headed straight out again because it was sunny, and decided to travel light so wouldn't have to lug my backpack around.

Gare du Nord is *huge*. And the automatic ticket machines only seemed to take coins, but I wanted a carnet, which I didn't have enough coins for, so queued to buy tickets. Fifteen minutes later .. hrmm. Eventually got my tickets, and eventually found where to go to get the train I wanted. Paris' metro signage is not nearly as user-friendly as London's :(

So into town I trundled.

Got out of the station and it's freezing cold and cloudy. WTF?? And of course I didn't bring my jacket, because it was *sunny*. Le sigh.

Anyway, got out at Notre Dame. Had a look, but the queue was all the way back along the plaza in front of it. So just wandered up and down the Seine having a look.

Continued walking along the south bank. Came across a bridge that was covered in padlocks. And realised how much I missed the sweetie :(:(:(

Eventually was opposite the Louvre so went across and had a look around. The queue for people *with* tickets was all the way across the plaza. I don't even know where the people were that needed to buy tickets.

Headed west, walking through the little arch, and through the gardens to see the obelisk which is the pair of the one I saw last week in Luxor.

Kept walking up Champs de elysee or however you spell it. It was nice through the park section of it, but then the shops hit and it was crazy crowded.

Finally got to the Arc de Triumphe. Crowded. So crowded. I couldn't remember if this was covered by the museum pass or not, so just decided to do it, since I was there. Fifteen minutes queueing later.. hrmm. I think it was actually on the museum pass, which if I'd had I could have walked straight in. Le sigh.

Went up and the view was pretty good. 194 steps in the sprial staircase to the first layer, more after that to the upper layers.

Came back down and it started raining.

Then it stopped, so kept walking.

Headed south-west and had a look at the Eiffel Tower from the north west side. There was sun for a while, but not when I was in a position to photograph it. Le sigh.

Went under the tower. They were setting up for a concert or something so couldn't stand in the middle and look up :( Why do I always seem to have crap timing for these sorts of things? Sussed out the queues. There's a lift broken so you can't buy tickets in advance (I tried when I was still at home - they were sold out til like June - now they're sold out til July). The lift queue looked *insane* and the stairs queue was like an hour and a half long. :(

I'd had enough at this point so headed back to Gare du Nord. Really don't like the signage here :(

Found a semi user-friendly cafe and had some veal and veggies (I'd been craving meat and veggies since had too much doughy stuff today).

Then back to the hotel. The sweetie was still up after his last day at his Japanese school, so we had a skype chat which was pretty emotional for me. Have I mentioned how much I miss the sweetie?

I can't find my Euro electrical adapter. I had it in Cairo but it's gone now. Will pull apart all my luggage to see if I can find it. Gonna be a pain if I have to buy a new one :/ Also realised this morning that the camel bone letter opener I got in Egypt was smashed in my suitcase :(

*SIGH*


Distance covered on the GPS: 490.3 km on the train, 13.5 km walking around Paris
Steps walked: 26692
Photos on the Canon: 213
Photos on the Sony: 51
Videos: 2
EUR Spent: 43.80

Let me start by saying that if you are any kind of Harry Potter fan at all, you HAVE TO do the Making of Harry Potter tour at Leavesden Studios. It's that awesome!!

So after breakfast I trotted out to Watford Junction (express train from Euston). Outside the station on the left there was a small bus interchange, so walked down there and the first bay had a sign saying Harry Potter shuttle bus. Waited for the first shuttle of the day (9:20) to arrive.

Arrived at the studio a bit early (I was paranoid about getting there late and missing out entirely), but that gave me plenty of time to get some photos, get my guide book and have a look through it, sign into the free wifi etc.

My ticket was for 10:30 so in I went.

First up is a bit of an introductory film.

Then into another room for a big screen introductory film.

Then they lift the screen and there are the doors to the main hall! Which they open to great effect and in you go. So fricken awesome!!

As it turns out, they actually moved the entire set from its original location in an old hangar to the current location in a purpose built building for the tour. Same with all the other sets they have there.

After wandering around the great hall, you go off into the "interior sets" room, which has several sets and *heaps* of props and costumes. There's the Gryffindor boys dormitory, Gryffindor common room, potions, Dumbledore's office, Hagrid's hut, the Burrow and the Ministry of Magic in this room. The place is packed with stuff from the movie, and have to make sure to LOOK UP! Because there's all sorts of things way up high. I think I spent probably two hours in this room. And it was surprisingly uncrowded - I was expecting it to be like it was in Sydney. Which incidently had some of the same things that were here now, like Hermione's Yule ball dress. There's multiples of costumes. I know in Sydney Snape's vest was actually purple, but it was black in all the ones here.

Next you go outside to the "backlot", which has an outdoor area where they've gathered a few things, including one of the Ford Anglia's and one of the motorcycles, both of which you can sit in, Tom Riddle's grave, a Knight Bus, the Privet Drive buildings (two of them), the Potter Cottage, the covered bridge, and some chess pieces.

Then it's back inside for some displays showcasing the work of the art and effects teams.

First up is the creature shop, with some videos hosted by Warwick Davis.

Then you get to walk through Diagon Alley.

Then you get to see some of the concept art and models. Amazing stuff. I loved the paper models. You get to walk by a whole heap of these.

And then the finale - the 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts Castle. It's spec-fricking-tacular! Absolutely enormous and intricately detailed, including hundreds of lights. The room cycles between night time and day time so you can see both. Amazing, just amazing.

Lastly you walk through some of the boxes of wands. Apparently they made and labelled something like 17000 boxes of wands, and they're labelled with the cast and crew.

Out through the shop of course. Everything was crazy expensive though (like £24.95 for a scarf or £24.95 for a wand or £7.95 for a chocolate frog - I don't think so!!). T-shirts were reasonably priced (£14.95) but I didn't really find one I liked.

And so I left. I was there for three and a half hours after 10:30, but could have stayed longer if I'd spent more time in the effects rooms. Hopped on a shuttle bus back to the station and straight on a train back to Euston.

From there I walked down to the museum and spent the rest of the afternoon there. There is SO MUCH STUFF in that museum it's ridiculous. I walked through the majority of rooms, but you could easily spend an hour or two in each room alone. I think if I lived in London I'd spend like an hour a week just exploring one room at a time (it's free entry so it'd be easy/cheap to do).

At this point I have £2 left in my purse. Which probably would have seen me through, however then I remembered I needed to do washing tonight. So went looking for an ATM. Now I've walked past like a thousand ATMs in this city, but the moment you start looking for one they all disappear (the exact same thing happened to Campbell yesterday). Ridiculous. Walked for like a kilometre around a few blocks trying to find one. Stumbled across Covent Garden at one point, but was super hungry and tired and grumpy, so when I eventually did find an ATM I just got money and went back to Earl's Court. Picked up a Subway and a beer and chilled out for a while. Headed out again to do the load of washing then back here to blog.


Distance covered on the GPS: 51.2 km (plus the trip out to Watford Junction that didn't record)
Steps walked: 16323
Photos on the Canon: 586
Photos on the Sony: 20
Videos: 12
GBP Spent: 35.36

Busy day in London today, but on paper it doesn't look like all that much.

Breakfast was super late today - 8:00!! I woke up at 5:23, so got up and spent some time organising what I'll be doing for the next three days.

After breakfast I headed into town and out to Elephant and Castle to walk down to Old Kent Road to add to my Monopoly street signs collection. I walked a good way down the street before I gave up and headed back (it seems this place suffers from the same problem as other places - they don't label the main road, only side streets). But then on the side of the overpass was a sign! Yay!

Headed for Tower Bridge, getting there around 10am. And there was sun! And the Tower of London wasn't behind white sheeting.

Thought I'd go rephotograph The Leaky Cauldron mark II before heading for Monument. But on the way I walked past the London Bridge Experience. It was on the todo list for another day, but it was just there and there was no queue out the door, so decided to just go in then. I had no idea what to expect. I guess I was expecting more of a museum. So the "experience" was all a little ridiculous. And the "tombs" was kind of like Inifinity on the Gold Coast, except with "scary" stuff, and guys running around yelling boo essentially, but with far too many sudden loud noises for my ears. You have to put your hands on the shoulders of the person in front and trundle through in a little conga line. Silly silly silly. I'm glad it was "free" on my London Pass otherwise I'd have been pretty disappointed. And it wasted an hour of perfectly good sunlight :/

Went and got my photos of the Leaky Cauldron, then walked across the Southwark bridge, and went and found Monument. It was getting a bit cloudy at this point :( But climbed the 311 steps anyway. Took some photos and continued.

Walked up to Leadenhall markets to get a photo I missed last time of the area of the first Leaky Cauldron.

Headed for Bank station, but it seemed like all the lines through it were shut down for the day. Decided it would be easier to walk back to Monument station. Except then I waited and waited for a train to High Street Kensington. So gave up on that idea and decided to go to Gloucester Road instead.

From there walked up to Kensington Palace. Got to walk through the big front gates this time (last time they were working on the gardens and the entrance was closed and you had to go around the other side behind the garden). Going in was a little confusing about where you had to actually go to get in. But got in, and the things you see are all off one central room. So went and saw the Diana exhibition (just a few of her dresses not seen on display before), then the "King's State Rooms" which were the most impressive, the "Queen's State Rooms" for Queen Mary II, and an exhibition called Victoria Revealed which had a whole lot of memorabilia from her life. There was a lot of stuff there and you could have spent ages looking at it if interested. And the best thing: you can take photos of it all!!

Decided I'd walk through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park rather than taking the tube so that I could go up Wellington Arch, which closes at 5pm. I got there at 16:32. Guess what time the place *actually* closes? 16:30. So the buttplugs wouldn't let me in :(:(:( And the place isn't open the next two days, so I missed out completely :(:(:(

So I did the only thing a sane person would do - got depressed, gave up on the day and went back to the hotel. Via KFC.


Distance covered on the GPS: 25.2 km
Steps walked: 26027
Photos on the Canon: 189
Photos on the Sony: 57
Videos: 1 (?)
GBP Spent: 5.58

Last time we were in the UK I was completely devastated to find out that Legoland Windsor doesn't open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for certain parts of the year. So as well as the Harry Potter studios, Legoland was at the top of the priority list to do this time.

So off I trundled today.

And what a glorious day it was!! Mostly sunny with the odd cloud or two, thickening a little in the afternoon. Totally made up for last time.

Firstly let me tell you that getting to and from Legoland by public transport is a major pain in the butt. I had to take three trains and a bus each way. Not only that but Windsor and Eton Central station is completely un user friendly and information on how to get to Legoland is nonexistent once you're there. But I don't have a car so I had no choice.

OK so I started by getting a tube train to Paddington. No problems there, just one train from Earl's Court.

Now I'd read somewhere online that you could get a "combined" ticket to cover the train, bus and entry to the park. Well the dude I talked to wasn't too sure about that, but he did sell me a train ticket, as well as a ticket for the bus and park entry. £46.90 all up for return trips. OK so far so good. Checked at an information desk to make sure I was setting up to do the right thing. The idea is I'd go from Paddington to Slough on the express train, then hop on a train from Slough to Windsor and Eton Central, and then I'd have to go hunting for the bus stop. The ladies told me to go out of the station, turn right and head down the road a bit. OK, this should work.

So got on the express. Had to hunt through the train to find a seat that wasn't reserved. It left at 8:21am. Been on the go for half an hour now.

The trip to Slough is actually very quick - only about twenty minutes or so. At Slough you change to what seems to be a shuttle train that just goes between Slough and W&E Central. It was there on the other platform so just walked across and hopped on. Easy.

When I arrived at W&E Central, things started to go downhill. They're doing station works, and there's all these shops and arcades around the station, so it's really not clear which is the actual exit of the station. I found an opening that faced the castle so hoped that was it. But there's no signage *anywhere* for Legoland. It's like noone ever tries to do the same thing as I was trying to do.

So I got out to the castle and turned right, but really had no clue at all if I was going the right way. I eventually came across a bus stop and found some tiny print on one of the timetables on the bus stop something that mentioned buses from Legoland. From. Ok, so I thought I'd go cross the road and see what the other side said. OK so there was an A4 sized sheet about the Legoland shuttle. You can take a 191 or a 200. First departure: a 191 at 9:38. It was 9:10. OK so sat down to wait.

Clearly the lack of signage is not just me imagining it. Several other confused tourists came and asked me if this was where to catch the Legoland buses. I said "hope so!!"

The bus was a little late, but did come, and my ticket worked. Yayy!

Arrived at Legoland around 10:05. But then I had to find someone that would convert my train/park entry ticket into a park entry ticket the machines would understand. The regular gate people couldn't do it so had to go to guest services. Luckily the lady there knew all about it but said they don't get many of them.

So at 10:15ish I finally enter the park!!! Only took two and half hours.

The place is pretty huge. And the map is more of a guide than an accurate map. So it was crowded but the crowd was very spread out. So the queues were generally pretty good. The exceptions were the little train that goes around - it spent as much time in the station as it did going around, and the Laser Raiders. This took 45 minutes to get through the queue, and it wasn't even that good! You sit in these little carts and fire lasers at lights that pop up for points. Except I was by myself in a carriage so had noone to compete with. That's 45 minutes I could have spent doing other things :(

I went to the roller coaster first up and got straight on it. And a couple of other rides too. Late morning I passed by Miniland and it was *shining* in the sun, so went up and got my big camera out of the locker (£1 each use) to photograph it. I went on the pirate ship twice (it was *fun* !) and the roller coaster twice. They have a Star Wars miniland experience, which is a scene each from all six movies. Didn't buy anything (except a hotdog for lunch) cause it was crazy expensive and I can get stuff cheaper on the Lego website.

Six pm and it was time to leave.

Went back to the bus stop and caught a 200 at 18:10. Very heavy traffic coming out of the park and through the streets, and the bus was full of very tired kids and a couple of screaming babies. It was a *very* long bus ride :( The 200 bus stops at "Theatre Royal" first, which is where everyone else got off. But I wanted to go back to where I started so I wouldn't get lost. Turns out the "central" stop is just one stop along, and the Theatre Royal stop is in between the two railway stations. W&E Central goes to Slough then Paddington, and W&E Riverside goes to Waterloo.

I *just* missed the 18:47 train, so got a juice and then got the 19:07 train to Slough. Fortunately the express was running a few minutes late, so up and over to go catch that, and didn't have to wait nearly half an hour for the next one. Back to Paddington, back on the tube, and arrived back in Earl's Court at 20:00.

After all that travel and walking you'll have to forgive me for just getting a cheeseburger from the Scottish Restaurant at Earl's Court on the way home.

Last night just after midnight, I get this phone call, presumably from reception, asking something about my 9:00 wakeup call. ?!?!?!?!? Certainly hope that doesn't happen again tonight. I was in a deep sleep, so was completely disoriented. I thought I was still in Egypt. Took me a minute to realise where I was.

Three days in London before Harry Potter. Will come up with a plan of attack when I wake up at stoopid o'clock tomorrow morning.


Distance covered on the GPS: 101.8 km
Steps walked: 21445
Photos on the Canon: 417
Photos on the Sony: 113
Videos: 0 (?)
GBP Spent: 65.29

Dear Travel Agents,

When people ask for a window seat on aeroplanes, it's because they want a view of the ground, NOT THE FRICKEN WING!!!!

Not happy.


So anyway.

Up at stoopid o'clock (4:40am, although I'd been awake since 4:00). Breakfast, checkout, and off to the airport.

The other couples all went their separate ways, although did run into a couple of them in my wanderings. Made use of Cairo airport's free wifi (thanks Cairo!).

And then off we went. I was depressed about my seat, so put on some movies. The EgyptAir 777's entertainment systems are pretty good. Nice touch screen, and several options for the GPS maps. Even between-seat dialling (which I didn't use because I didn't know anyone on the plane heh).

I watched Midnight in Paris first up. Knew absolutely nothing about it, so quite enjoyed it, even if it was all a bit silly and extreme coincidences.

Then watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, which I also really enjoyed seeing a second time. Still a few things about the movie I disagree with (having just reread the book didn't help).

The alps looked stunning. Have I mentioned how much wing seats suck?

Our approach to London was "interesting". I swear air traffic controllers are just playing Flight Control on their phones, and our planes follow their paths..

So after reading an article DC sent me about the queues at Heathrow, I was fully expecting to have to wait hours to get through immigration. But when I walked into the hall it was practically deserted! Win! So getting through the airport was a breeze. Changed my leftover shekels into pounds (noone in Egypt would do it), although could probably have gotten a better deal in a bank. Then did the long walk to the tube station.

Got to my hotel and checked in. Perfectly adequate hotel, although no safe, and breakfast doesn't start til 7am, 8am on Sundays. And a little too warm. But I have a lovely view of the gardens opposite, and it has free wifi!! Seriously why can't fancy hotels do this??

Pretty much headed straight out again to go pickup my London Pass before the office closed. That was in Leicester Square, so wandered up to Piccadilly Circus, which we'd somehow missed out on doing last time.

Then down to Trafalgar Square (Nelson's column was in sunlight!!).

Past the visitor's entrance to the Ministry of Magic (they were doing construction work last time we were here - turns out they've put in all these bollards along the footpath).

A quick look at the Household Cavalry museum from the courtyard, that we'd also missed seeing last time.

A walkby 10 Downing Street, because last time for some reason I thought the Prime Minister's house was on the other side of the road.

And ended up at Westminster station, where I think I found the escalator used in Order of the Phoenix (there's a *lot* of escalators at Westminster station!) as well as taking another pic of the entrance gates used in the movie.

I really only came back early because I didn't know what time the laundromat closed. Otherwise I would have kept wandering! It was so much fun with such nice weather and lots of people about being Friday night.

So grabbed my washing and loaded it up. Only twenty minutes for a cycle which is pretty good. So I wandered up and down Earl's Court Road looking for somewhere to have dinner. Did the drying, and went to a Chinese place. Had something I haven't had in a month - pork!! It was pretty good, but too much meat and not enough veggies. My bowels *won't* thank me for that!

Then back here to blog and do photos.


Distance covered on the GPS: 3712.5 km
Steps walked: 15005
Photos on the Canon: 19
Photos on the Sony: 163
Videos: 2
EGP Spent: 10
GBP Spent: 18.40

Another fairly quiet day today.

Another 5:30 wakeup to be off the boat at 7am.

First up was a minibus ride to the unfinished obelisk (ha, I accidently typed obelix there, must be those years of reading Asterix ;) ). That was pretty cool, and amazing that they never used the granite for anything else. Leaving the place you're channelled through an arcade of vendors that all step in your path and say "come look, no hassle".. umm, dude, you're hassling me now! They just don't get this. So I pretty much bolted through and didn't look at anything. Buttheads.

Then back in the minibus to a motorboat to go to the temples of Philae. These structures were actually partially submerged by the first Aswan dam, and were going to be completely submerged by its extension. So they moved it all to an island, but they had to rearrange a few things to get it all to fit on the island.

The flies were particularly bad when we got off the boat to wait for the minibus. Quite bothersome really.

So back to the big boat with a little time before lunch. I ate way too much meat at lunch, that is still fermenting in my stomach hours later :(

Watched as they cast off from Aswan.

Sat up on the top deck for a while, but some Germans kept smoking upwind from us, so gave up on that and retired to my cabin for the afternoon. Didn't really do anything apart from play games on my phone and rest (couldn't even sleep :( ).

Sunset was viewed from my cabin tonight. I thought about going up on deck and having a drink, but in the end just did my washing. Yay. Still, that should be the last lot of handwashing I have to do in a long time, probably a couple of weeks. Yay for knowing where the laundromat is in Earl's Court! (let's hope it's still operational heh)

For dinner I just had some soup and some salad and a bit of dessert.

While eating we arrived in Edfu.

In Aswan my window faced the dock which was a little boring. During the cruise I just got the hot afternoon sun so couldn't open the blind. When we arrived in Edfu we pulled up with the other side of the ship facing the dock, so I thought I'd have a nice morning view of the Nile. Yeah right. Another ship has pulled up parallel to us and my view is of the next ship :( The next window is literally a metre away from mine :(

I couldn't stay awake for the Egyptian "party" downstairs. It was meant to be dressup. Yeah right. Hrmmm.

Going to bed.

After I clear the bowels. Multiple times. Hope this is done by tomorrow morning :(


Distance covered on the GPS: 138.1 km
Steps walked: 9004
Photos on the Canon: 180
Photos on the Sony: 29
Videos: 4
EGP Spent: 6

Pretty light day today.

The beef bacon was back today :)

Left the hotel at 7:30 and went to the airport.

Like Jordan there is an xray to get into the airport before checkin. Checkin was a bit stressful because I didn't get a window seat on one of my flights so had to try and get it changed and it was all just messy and stressful :(

So go through that and found that Cairo airport has free wifi!

Then down to the "gate" (through security, which bans liquids over 100mL, even on domestic flights). We got driven all around the airport to our plane which was parked in the middle of nowhere.

The first flight was from Cairo to Aswan. I was sitting on the right side of the plane so could see a bit of the lake when we turned around and came in from the south, but not the dam :(

Went to the terminal in Aswan and it was basically time to board the next flight to Abu Simbel. Since everyone was there (it was just an Embraer 170, and not full) they said we could depart early! So we actually departed twenty five minutes early which was pretty awesome.

Bad luck with seating prevailed. We took off to the north but turned around to the left very quickly, before the dam, so I didn't see anything much from my right hand side seat. Dad again got better photos from the left side of the plane. However noone was in a window seat on the left side so I moved over there after the seatbelt sign turned off. This is because when you fly into Abu Simbel, if you fly in from the south east, you get a great view of the temples as you come into land. So did that and got my view - hurrah!!

Got the Egypt Air courtesy bus down the road to the entrance to Abu Simbel, and we walked the rest of the way down the hill to our boat.

It's a pretty cool boat. It's like a little hotel on water. There's something like seventy rooms, as well as various lounges, bars and even a small pool.

All for twenty one tourists.

!

Yup, twenty one people on the ship plus guides. There's more crew than guests! Seems like a bit of a waste to be running the ship plus having all these bored staff. But on the other hand it's kinda cool to have the ship mostly deserted, and know half the people here.

So anyway, as soon as we arrived we went straight to lunch. It was a full four course fine dining meal!! Craziness. Of course I'd had a big breakfast. So this is not going to end well. Diet starts in a week when I get to London .. hrmmm

After lunch we watched a documentary on the moving of the Abu Simbel temples to higher ground which was necessary when they built the Aswan High Dam.

Then we had afternoon tea, but it felt like we'd only just had lunch, so didn't feel like much.

And then a little time to spare before going around to the temples for the sound and light show. Have I ever mentioned my bad luck with seating. So as to try and avoid heads in the way I said can we sit in the front row. The guide said if we wanted to. But there was a chain in the way there so decided to move and the guide said "I tried to tell you but you wouldn't believe me". *sigh*. So grumpy about the whole thing. Did find a spot with no heads in front, but then got a big block of some thing blocking part of it. But I wasn't going to move again. *sigh*. So didn't enjoy it as much as I might have. Plus being sick and tired certainly didn't help.

Got back to the boat for another four course meal. But I just had an entree and main, and skipped the soup and dessert. Came back here to type this up, but haven't even downloaded my photos from today - need to get to bed - getting up at stoopid o'clock tomorrow to see the temples in the sunrise.


Distance covered on the GPS: 1050 km
Steps walked: 11378
Photos on the Canon: 190
Photos on the Sony: 91
Videos: 0
EGP Spent: 36

Pretty good day in Egypt today. For us at least.

Woke up a little after 5am and got up a bit before six.

Breakfast at this hotel was pretty awesome, they even had beef bacon :)

So we headed out at 7:30 and headed straight for Giza.

Pyramids!!

We got there early enough to get tickets to go into the Great Pyramid (100LE) - apparently they only sell 150 per day. So you get off the bus and go through security, and then the bus goes around to the parking area on the other side.

!?

Yes, security is completely redundant, because you could leave whatever contraband on the bus when it goes around. Whatever.

You aren't allowed to take cameras into the Great Pyramid (they do bag checks), so we dumped the cameras on the bus and went in. It was super awesome! My favourite part is the huge corridor leading up to the burial chamber with its high ceilings. I was also very impressed with the stonework in the burial chamber - it was so precise! There's nothing left in the burial chamber except the sarcophagus, which was too big to get out, so it remains.

Came back out again, went and got our cameras, then wandered round for a while.

Unfortunately you can't stand still anywhere in Egypt (at the tourist destinations) because otherwise the flies swarm around you buzzing in your ears and won't leave you alone. You just have to keep walking with your head down. Which is really no way to enjoy the sights :(

Then we drove up to the "panorama" view of the pyramids.

And then down to the Sphynx. A lot of it is badly eroded, so they've been doing a lot of work restoring it.

Oh and I might have had this bit of Joseph stuck in my head all day:

So back in Canaan the future looked rough Jacob's family were finding it tough

For the famine has caught us unprepared
We are thin
We are ill
We are getting scared
It's enough to make anyone weep
We are down to our very last sheep

We will starve if we hang around here

But in Egypt there's food going spare

They've got corn
They've got meat
They've got fruit and drinks

And if we have the time
We could see the Sphinx

So they finally decided to go
Off to Egypt to see brother Jo

Next we headed to Saqqara to see the step pyramid and other ruins there. And had a pretty clear view down to the "bent" pyramid, about fifteen kilometres away. This place was a lot quieter and far less tourists, so the flies were a bit more persistent because there were less targets.

Finally we went to a small museum which houses a pretty impressive statue of Rameses II and a few other smaller statues as well.

Got back to the hotel pretty early (a bit after three). I started doing photo stuff and was going to blog, but decided I really needed to wash everything and have a shower.

A bit before five the parents and I headed out to dinner. We went back to Maison Thomas where we went last night, and this time shared a beef salami pizza. It was so yumm! Really enjoyed it.

Then hopped on the bus again to go back to the pyramids to see the 7:30 sound and light show at the Sphynx. It was a dramatisation of snippets of some of the Pharoahs' lives and deaths but was a little disjointed and I'm not sure it really had a plot or not. Still, the light show was pretty awesome, and was great to see the pyramids and sphynx lit up in all different colours.

And finally back to the hotel for the evening.


Distance covered on the GPS: 137.2 km
Steps walked: 16741
Photos on the Canon: 261
Photos on the Sony: 18
Videos: 0
EGP Spent: 137
USD Spent: 194

Urrrgh. I hate drama. Hate stress. Blah.

Breakfast at this hotel was ok - the nicest thing was meats at breakfast!! Haven't had meat at breakfast this whole trip (except for some tuna on the first day).

Loaded up in the coach and got driven through the most affluent part of Amman, with the tour guide doing a whole PR spiel for the country. It certainly was nicer that the first impression we got of the country.

Our first stop was the "Memorial of Moses" on Mount Nebo - possibly the place that Moses came up to see into the Promised Land before he died. There were a couple of nice mosaics there and you could just barely see Jerusalem through the haze.

Came down from there and stopped at a mosaic-making workshop where they make some stunning mosaics from cut stone. They can take months to complete, depending on the size of stones and intricacy.

Then into Madaba. Traffic was a little crazy as traffic lights were out, and did I mention they don't really have road rules here?

We parked and walked up to see St George's Church and the amazing mosaic they have of the middle east something like 1500 years ago. But the buttheads decided to build a church on top of it, and stuck a supporting pillar *right in the middle of the mosaic* !?!?!? Idiots.

And then back to the bus back through the market street.

For some reason this town had a nice feel to it. Maybe because the shops looked more familiar (a lot of English and selling more western products), maybe because the locals were friendly and waving, maybe because the vendors weren't aggressive. Who knows.

Headed a way out of town to a new restaurant for lunch and it was really nice (with nice clean free toilets - a major bonus in this country!). They even had this camel milk custard dessert!

Next up - another one of Herod's palaces at Mukawer, traditionally the location that they beheaded John the Baptist. A good little climb up and a great view.

This country is amazingly water poor, but we did see a couple of interesting things. One thing was temporary water tanks with tubing to irrigate roadside trees they're trying to grow. At another point we saw a burst water pipe on the side of a mountain gushing water in a huge geyser half way down the side of the mountain.

Then to the "Grand Canyon of Jordan" - Wadi Mujib.

Then headed south. The landscape changed dramatically from farmland to semi-arid.

Had a pitsop along the way, but had to pay for the toilets here.

Continued south (then west) to Petra (Wadi Musa), arriving just on sunset (behind the clouds anyway).

Navigating this hotel is a drama. You have to take two separate lifts, but there's only two at each site, and they only hold six people at a very tight squeeze. Found some stairs and decided they were much easier and faster.

Dinner was a total drama. First the parents arguing about which way up or down the table to move to not leave odd seats, so abanonded them. But then getting food was a *massive* drama because of a bunch of rude Europeans (Italian I think but could have been French - both are in the building) pushing in and making everything take longer. Hate.

Internet is $5 for the whole stay, but another couple gave me a couple of dollars to use it briefly. But it's so slow I may not be able to get my blog entries online anyway. Plus the only place you can use it is in the lobby, and that's where all the Europeans come to smoke :( *sigh*

Now it's stoopidly late because we got here late and have to get up stoopidly early. Which means my chances of getting any decent sleep tonight are about zero..


Distance covered on the GPS: 351.5
Steps walked: 16414, but I'm taking off 5000 due to bumpy roads screwing up the count
Photos on the Canon: 335
Photos on the Sony: 49
Videos: 11
USD Spent: 5-2
JD Spent: 0.5+2