Results tagged “Food” 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: ?

OK day today, a few ups and downs.

The first down was a lack of sleep, it being too hot in the hotel, even after having the window open to let the cold air in, then the aircon on during the night. Stoopid all or nothing quilts :( Not to mention the sun getting up at stoopid o'clock. Got back to sleep but then slept in til 8:20!! Gah!! Then got stressed cause had to get ready quickly so we'd get down to breakfast in time *sigh*

But made it down in time.

Finished getting ready then headed out for the day.

First we headed to the Odori park. It's quite a nice little park. Enjoyed the flowers and the fountains and the people feeding the pigeons.

Japanese toilets failed me for the first time today. The toilets in the park had three squatty toilets (which I don't like because they're awkward and usually dirty and nowhere to put your bags) and a disabled toilet which I waited ages for someone to get out of, only to find *none* of the toilets had toilet paper anyway. So didn't go. Fail.

Wandered past the old government office building, which also had some nice gardens, and tormented a couple of tortoises.

Then we headed up to the station and got a train to Otaru. Couldn't get a seat to start with, but did later when some people got off.

So got to the station and just wandered down to the water. Found the canal. It wasn't quite what I was expecting. I guess I was expecting it to be a little more "European" with shops along the canal.

But we did find the Otaru beer cafe, so went in there for a couple of beers and lunch.

After lunch went to the harbour, then wandered back to the station.

Got back to Sapporo and I found signs for the JR T38 tower. So went and found that while the sweetie had a coffee. 700 yen (no discount or freebie for JR pass though - doh!). It had a pretty good view - probably better than the TV tower that you can also go up, as it's quite a bit higher.

Got back to the hotel and didn't end up doing anything else for the day. The sweetie had a snooze and I read news feeds. I also got all my beer of the day entries done which hadn't been done since London.

Went out to get some snacks for dinner but that was all for the day.


Distance covered on the GPS: 90.3 km
Steps walked: 14117
Photos on the Canon: 142
Photos on the Sony: 76
Videos: 2+?

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, as the step count will testify :)

Up, ready and out the door by 8:45. McGriddle for breakfast.

First train at 9:40 - shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Tokyo. Slept a bit on the train (was so asleep I actually slept through the stop at Nagoya!). Couldn't see shiny at all :(

Short transfer at Tokyo, then took the next shinkansen to Shin-Aomori. Zoomed through Fukushima but stopped at Sendai. Dozed a little after Sendai. Lunch was bento boxes we picked up on Tokyo station.

Another very short transfer to the Super Hakucho to Hakodate. We left ten minutes late but got to the tunnel under the straight on time.

And then we were on Hokkaido. We've now been to three of the four main islands of Japan. Stu has been on the shinkansen as far north as you can go and as far south as you can go :)

Got to the hotel - it was super easy to find, being right next to the station.

They gave us a free cocktail voucher when we checked in, so went up and got that, then had a bit of fun with some Japanese whisky tasting. First up we tried a Suntory Yamazaki 12 (very smooth, a bit sweet) and a Nikka Yoichi 12 (a bit smokey, I liked this one). Then we had a Suntory Hakushu 12 (a bit bitier, not as sweet as the other Suntory) and another Yoichi. Expensive but very nice and with a great view over the city from the thirteenth floor.

Then we went looking for dinner. We were in the morning seafood market so not much was open for dinner, but did find one place and had some tempura squid and tempura seafood mix. Was good, but the fish gasping for air in the tanks made me a bit sad.

Washed hair and crashed.


Distance covered on the GPS: 1342.8 km
Steps walked: 5617
Photos on the Canon: 75
Photos on the Sony: 43
Videos: 1

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

Well that was a long day. Starting like three days ago (it's 9:24am Tuesday local time by the time I'm blogging this).

So woke up quite early (as you do) and got myself ready. Was down at breakfast slightly before it started at 7am, but they let me in anyway. Fairly simple breakfast and was done by about 7:20. Went and grabbed my stuff and checked out and headed for the station. Thought I'd make the 7:40 train, but actually things went smoothly at the station and I got the 7:32. Very short trip to the airport, went on a longish walk to the terminal, checked in quickly, then sat around bored for nearly an hour. Oh well :)

First flight was on an A319. Back row on the right, row of three seats to myself. Nice view of Denmark before it got a bit cloudy over Europe.

At Zurich had a short gap between flights - enough to download the GPS and give it a bit of a quick charge.

Second flight on an A330, second back row on the right, two seats to myself. Nearly twelve hour flight, but probably one of the least stressful long haul flights I've ever been on. Having room to spread out, being able to get up whenever I pleased, being able to fidget in peace.. was just awesome. Plus it never got dark. We left at 1pm but it never got night. When it was supposed to be night we were so far north that the sun was coming over the north pole :) Very very cool. I watched four movies - I Heart Huckabees, The Bridges of Madison County, I Robot and The Vow.

Had a super long wait in immigration in Tokyo. They must have had a few planes come in at once because the hall was completely full and we had to wait an hour to get through :( Fortunately I was with this nice Danish guy (who had been diagonally in front of me on both flights!) so we were chatting about stuff while we waited. He travels to Japan a lot because he has a Japanese girlfriend.

Went downstairs to get my JR pass then hopped on the NEX into Shinagawa then a shinkansen to Osaka. Shiny wasn't being very shiny. Dozed a little but didn't really sleep.

At Osaka station, after a little bit of fuss, found the sweetie!!!!!!!!!!!!! Epic awesome :):):):)

Grabbed a McPork for lunch and ate it as we walked down to the hotel, getting there a bit after 2pm.

So yeah, shower, resting, "catching up", beer from the hotel vending machines, it was a lovely afternoon.

Headed out to get some dinner - went to the little ramen place we went to during the heatwave last time we were here.

Turns out this hotel does have a laundry (yayy!) so put our washing on. But it took over two hours and it was already late. I was falling alseep and completely non-functional, so the sweetie very nicely collected the washing when it was done.


Distance covered on the GPS: 10494 km
Steps walked: 10453
Photos on the Canon: 56
Photos on the Sony: 201
Videos: 0
DKK Spent: ?
Yen Spent: 150 plus whatever the sweetie spent

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: ?

Pretty simple day today. Just walked across the road and walked around for a bit.
;)

Breakfast in the buffet was pretty huge. Best thing though: a massive pile of thin crispy bacon!

Got myself a Legoland ticket downstairs.

Before the gates opened I walked down the road to the Lego headquarters to see the building.

Then back to Legoland for the 10am opening.

The park is a pretty good size, but much easier to navigate than Windsor because it's more long and thin. After the first walk through the park I didn't need the map anymore (at Windsor I needed it all day).

There's a new section at the end - Polar Land, which has some real penguins (!) - seventeen gentoo penguins, and an amazing roller coaster. I went on this roller coaster four times in the morning - it was the best ride in the park. In hindsight I should have had a few more goes on it when there was no queue as by late afternoon the queues were very long.

Some stuff is pretty much the same as Windsor - for example the Dragon ride and the Egypt ride. And some of the models around the park are the same too.

They have a model of Abu Simbel too - but they've put the fallen head back on it! heh

The Miniland is quite extensive, but doesn't have too much in the way of landmark buildings, it's more cute little villages. They have the Star Wars scenes in Miniland as well, same as Windsor, but these ones are outside so much easier to photograph! They have their original miniland village which you can tell is a much simpler style, and much "blockier" because they had to use bricks for most things instead of plates and all the various fancy pieces of Lego you can get nowadays. Most disappointing discovery: arguably Denmark's most famous attraction, the Little Mermaid is there in Copenhagen harbour - but is not made of Lego!! Fail! heh.

So yeah lots of walking up and down the park, went on most of the rides that were worth going on without having to wait in queues. Took far too many photos, but at least under five hundred!

Found somewhere in the park to eat a very late lunch/early dinner - a chicken salad for 50 kr. Much cheaper than the 200-250 I'd need to eat here! But only just, as they were all closing up for the day.

Prices in this country continue to astound me. I thought I was pretty lucky getting that meal for 50 kr (about ten dollars). I quickly gave up looking at the merhandise. They had Lego keyrings for 100 kr - that's twenty dollars! Absolutely insane! A plain soft-service ice cream was 45 kr ($9). Actually I lie, they did also have smaller ones for 22 kr. But the same store had mega ice creams going up to 82 kr - $16!!

Got back to the hotel and started sorting stuff out for tomorrow, but will leave that story for tomorrow.


Distance covered on the GPS: 16.5 km
Steps walked: 18906
Photos on the Canon: 472
Photos on the Sony: 29
Videos: 4
DKK Spent: 50

Had a nice slow start today. Breakfast at 7:15 then back up to the room to sort through all the paperwork I've accumulated since the beginning of the trip. Photographed and packed up everything from Australia to Amsterdam and was out the door a little later than I wanted to be. Checked out but left the bag at the hotel.

First stop was the post office. I packed up and sent home all the aforementioned paperwork, nearly 2kg of it! Partly to not have to lug around an extra two kilos for the rest of the trip, but also to reduce weight for my next flight which will be on something small and I don't want to get charged excess baggage!

Wanded up to the Rathaus which looked pretty spectacular in the morning sun.

Then down to St Nikolai's. This church was bombed during the second world war but the spire survived so they've left it as a monument. You can go up it for 3.70, so I did (I've done something Dave2 hasn't done! Yay me! hehe). Unfortunately they're doing restoration work on it at the moment so you can't see out to the west :( Came back down and went through the photo gallery of some of the photos taken of the destruction during the war.

Next up was St Michaelis, which is the church featured on Germany's two euro coin. This one you can also go up, for 4.00, and it has a much much better panoramic view. Unfortunately there was a big group of kids up there at the time which made it noisy and crowded :(

Kept wandering down to Landingsbrücke to see the piers and docklands.

And then hopped on a train back to the Hauptbahnhof. Grabbed my bag and went back to the station and picked up a roll for lunch while waiting for my train. Was slightly worried because I couldn't see Kolding on the station list, but the train number and time and even platform were correct so hoped for the best. On the train I did finally see it saying Kolding.

So train for next three hours. No GPS track. There must be something about the Germany express trains that causes grief with the GPS :( Had trouble getting mobile coverage too.

Got off at Kolding in Denmark, where I was going to need to buy another train ticket to get to Vejle. Why this country can't use Euros I have no idea. I went out and scanned all around for an ATM but none to be seen. So went and asked at the ticket office where I could find one. They said try one of the banks a hundred metres down the road in town. Like seriously guys? I know Kolding is nowheresville, but would it kill you to have an ATM at the station?? So I get back to the ticket office after getting some money and it's just after 5pm so they've closed. !?!?! Gah!! OK so the smallest money I had was a 100 dkk note, and the machines only take coins (I needed 48 dkk). So went into the 7-eleven to get some chips (lunch tomorrow - that's my excuse) and asked for some change as well. All sorted, ticket purchased, onto the train I go (good thing I had plenty of time and that there was a lift!)

So a short trip to Vejle where I got off to transfer to a bus. Thankfully that was pretty painless, although did confirm with a local that I'd be able to buy a ticket on the bus.

A little while later and I'm at the Legoland Hotel!!! Everything here is *hideously* expensive (I think dinner was going to cost me $60). But the hotel is awesomely cool. Lego everywhere and Lego-themed *everything*, including carpets, bed linen, decorations, soap, shoe shine, sewing kits (!!). Went for a wander after I checked in to have a look through the place.

Then had dinner at one of the restaurants, an all you can eat buffet for previously mentioned astronomical price. Still a bit full .. oops!


Distance covered on the GPS: 90.2 km (plus Hamburg to Kolding which I just couldn't get a signal for :( )
Steps walked: 15102
Photos on the Canon: 214
Photos on the Sony: 78
Videos: 0
EUR Spent: ?
DKK Spent: ? (too many!!)

So had to wake up at stoopid o'clock this morning so I could get to Hamburg by lunch time. So up, ready, out the door and at the station by 6:30. Three trains and six hours later and I'm in Hamburg (and I'm well over half way through my book).

Couldn't check in yet, so dumped my suitcase and walked down to Miniatur Wunderland!!

I saw this on the internet some time last year, and added a night in Hamburg to my trip just so I could see it. It's incredible!! The dioramas are of Hamburg and Germany, Austria/Switzerland, Scandanavia and the Americas. Most of the fun of the show is looking closely at the figures to find them doing funny (or rude) stuff. There's action going on everywhere. It's just amazing. I got there just after 1:30pm and stayed til nearly closing time (5:45pm). The crowds were starting to thin out by 3:30 and it was pretty empty by 4:30, so afternoon is definitely the time to go.

The biggest trouble I had was finding the entrance and actually getting in. The Hamburg Dungeon is right next door and gets all the big signage. The Miniatur Wunderland just a portable sign by a door further along the building. I wasn't sure if I was going in the exit (and it's up a few flights of stairs - next time - catch the lift up!). There's not a word in English so I wasn't sure if the line I was getting into was for people with or without tickets. There was only one line though, and it was all a big mess. Even when you got your ticket you're in the middle of the shop that's selling stuff and that's where the exit is too. It was just chaos. This is pretty abysmal for Germans who are usually so much more organised at that sort of thing.

Anyway, so after that I just wandered up through the city, passing St Nikolai's (which is being renovated - don't know what the view will be like) and the Rathaus and Binnenalster.

Went through the station, and looked for local beer and/or hamburgers for dinner. No local beers, but did find a hamburger (patty), but it was pretty dry.

Finally back to the hotel and checked in. This is a nice hotel from what I've seen so far, pity I only have the one night!


Distance covered on the GPS: 487.5 km (a bit more than this but the GPS kept dropping out on the last train :( )
Steps walked: 12415
Photos on the Canon: 421
Photos on the Sony: 71
Videos: 23
EUR 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: ?

Alarm went off just after 5am this morning. After a late night this was not welcome. I was barely functioning as I got ready. Headed off a bit before 6am, and hopped on a train to Brussels. I partly dozed but didn't get any sleep. Stoopidly (again) I got an aisle seat. But the train was mostly empty so I took the window seat next to me. Why even bother asking for preferences on seating if you're not going to pay any attention to them??

So got to Brussels Midi and went and dumped my suitcase in a locker (4 euro, but if I'd gone to the place across the way it'd have been 3.60 .. doh!). Then went to figure out how I'd be getting to Amsterdam. Then to go get a Metro ticket. You can get an all day pass for 6 euro which turned out to be really great value (since individual tickets are 2 euro each). Brussels' Metro is a lot smaller that Paris, and generally much better organised and user-friendly. So had no problems figuring out my way around. They have these funky indicator boards that show where all the trains on the line are at (forwards and backwards).

Hopped on a train and headed up to the Atomium! Except for some reason I thought it opened at 9am, when it actually opened at 10am. Doh!

Didn't want to wait an hour there so headed to the Koekelberg basilica. Something like the fifth biggest church in the world or something. This area was completely devoid of any tourists which was a little scary. Walked up to the basilica which was supposed to open at 9am, but there were no signs anywhere. Eventually I found an open door and went in, but it looked like they were about to have a service, so I just took a picture or two and walked out again. I didn't bother going up the dome because it was too hazy.

From there walked down to the "Don't Trip!" sculpture. http://www.neatorama.com/2011/11/30/dont-trip/ The walk down had even less people around, and lots of guys just standing around by themselves. So that was a lot scary. But made it safely through.

Then on another train back up to the Atomium. This thing was built for the 1958 World Expo, and it was so popular they kept it. The view from the top would have been great on a clear day, but as it was it was a bit of a waste. But walking and escalating up and down through the spheres for the exhibitions was pretty cool.

Back into town again and straight out to Jubelpark to see the arch. You can actually go up the arch (and it's free!) via the military museum next to it (you just need to cloak your bags). On the way back out, I went and had a look at the hall of planes which was pretty cool.

Finally into the old town. Got off at Centraal and walked down. Saw a sign for Manneken Pis (translated: little man peeing) and then it was just a matter of following the crowds.

All up and down the alleys here are chocolate shops and waffle shops, as well as the souvenir shops. I got a waffle with brown sugar for 1.80. I have to say I preferred the paris waffle better - this one was quite a bit *heavier*. Also bought some Belgian chocolates .. oops :)

Continued on to the Market Square which was surrounded by beautiful buildings.

And down to Delirium Cafe, which I'd read online had a decent range of Belgian beers. Had an Affligem and a Trapistes Rochefort. Yum.

So headed back to the Midi station feeling slightly merry, and off I went again to Amsterdam.

Three hour train trip, I don't think I slept either :/

Got to Amsterdam and walked down to the hotel. After all the TripAdvisor reviews I'd read I was terrified it was going to be awful. But I ended up getting a room with a shower (I'd paid for a shared one). Yes it's super tiny, but seems relatively clean. And got some help with the suitcase on the super steep steps. Only main problem so far - the window doesn't actually lock :/

Headed out again to find some dinner. There's a laundromat directly opposite the hotel which is super awesome. And a fries and mayo place next door. But I wanted something with salad for dinner, so went for a wander. Walked down a lane that was full of south american grill cafes. Found something there (had chicken schnitzel though not steak).

And then kept wandering. There's such a lot of life going on here. Be better if the sweetie was here ....

And now it's 11pm. How does that work? Will attempt to sleep in... maybe... I was orignally planning to go see Anne Frank's house which opens at 9. Will see how I go. As for the rest of the day, I need some suggestions. What are *must dos* ?


Distance covered on the GPS: 581.1 km
Steps walked: 26891
Photos on the Canon: 207
Photos on the Sony: 67
Videos: 0
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: ?

Wasn't the best sleep ever - bed was a bit too soft and saggy in the middle.

Got ready early and headed out.

Stopped first at The Scottish Restaurant for a bacon and egg McMuffin (they don't do hash browns though).

Then into Gare du Nord to pick up a museum pass.

Then to the Eiffel Tower. I decided to go early, arriving there about a quarter to nine (ticket office opens at 9:30). Best. Idea. Ever. The line for the lifts stretched across the square, but the line for the stairs was only about 20-30 metres long. So when they opened the office I had my ticket within about ten minutes.

So through another bag check and xray (there's a bag check before the ticket office) and up the stairs. All six hundred odd of them to the second level. Probably quicker than the lift too, which doesn't really take all that many people.

Then another short queue to get the lift to the top. Getting there early certainly paid off, as you could actually move around fairly freely at the top. So that's another thing ticked off my bucket list :) It was getting pretty crowded by the time I left, and I went to the toilet at the top of the tower to add to my collection of cool places I've been to the toilet :)

Got the lift back down to the second level but didn't really stay there, as got my photos as the top. So got a lift to the first level (if you walk up the stairs you're allowed to get the lift down). Walked around there and looked down the hole in the middle at the queues snaking their way around the square. I wondered if those people would be there all day. (I got off the tower around 11:30).

Next up tried to have waffles at a Dave2 recommended place but looking at my photos and the location, I don't think it's there anymore. The satellite picture shows a building that's been replaced by something else. But I didn't realise this at the time and went down and found some at another place that I actually thought was it. It was a very yummy waffle though.

Walked all the way down Champ de Mars, and then got on a train over to the Pantheon. Walked in the wrong direction from the station for a block or two because various other attractions had signposts but not the Pantheon, and I didn't want to get my map out and look like a tourist. But found it eventually.

Another place that needs better queue control. The queue was out the door, but museum pass holders can walk straight in. But you don't know that til you're there because of the queue being out the door and all. This city is hopeless at queue control.

But it was pretty cool inside with a huge pendulum clock and the crypt had the likes of Victor Hugo and the Curies and Louie Braille in it.

Had a bit of a walk through the Luxembourg Gardens.

Walked to St Sulpice next to see the "Rose Line" as seen in the Da Vinci Code. There's a pretty funny note on the wall next to it -

Contrary to fanciful allegations in a recent best-selling novel, this is not a vestige of a pagan temple. No such temple ever existed in this place. It was never called a "Rose Line". It does not coincide with the meridian traced through the middle of the Paris Observatory which serves as a reference for maps where longitudes are measured in degrees East or West of Paris. No mystical notion can be derived from this instrument of astronomy except to acknowledge that God the Creator is the master of time.

There was a bit more to it too.

Continued on.

Was going to go into St Chappelle, but the queue was too long and no quick entry for museum pass. So went next door to the Conciergerie. I think I may have accidently cut in, it was all a little confusing as a bunch of people with passes were also being shown in through an earlier door. I did skip the bag check.. oops. Oh well.

Next up, Notre Dame. It's free entry, but the queue was all the way across the square again (going in a different direction today). It moved fairly quickly though, although that didn't stop a few people pushing in. Bastards.

So Notre Dame was big and all, but you kind of just walk through it with the masses, and there's nothing particularly spectacular about it. There was a choir singing though which was lovely.

Continued on trying to find somewhere to have dinner. I wanted something reasonably priced with English subtitles. Not too much to ask right? hrmm. Eventually found a place near the Louvre which had two cassoulets. Decided to have one of them. It was basically just a cheesy potato bake, but was pretty yummy.

And so the Louvre. It was about 6:45 by this point (it opens late on Fridays). There was still a fairly long queue, but as it turns out, that queue is for people without tickets. If you have a ticket or museum pass you can jump the queue and go straight to the security check. Win! So walked straight in :)

Got a guide and headed for Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. I was actually surprised how uncrowded it was. I was expecting to have to queue for like an hour to see the Mona Lisa, but while the room was fairly full of people, they were only about four deep in front of the painting itself. So got a photo and ducked out again.

Walked all over the museum finding different things. This place is *enormous*. I tried also to find the boat that had been taken from the temple in Edfu that our guide said was there but couldn't find it. It was kind of weird seeing all the Egyptian stuff in a museum, and I'm like, meh, I've seen the original locations .. heh.

I stayed til the museum closed at 9pm then waited for like half an hour outside waiting for the sun to set and it to get dark enough for them to turn the lights on. But they still hadn't by 9:35 so abandoned that idea and headed for the Eiffel Tower again.

It was 10pm by the time I arrived and the tower was already sparkling. So raced into a good position and saw the last couple of minutes. It was pretty awesome :)

And then trained it back to the hotel.

I found an electrical adapter today (yayyy) so got that working first up (it took a bit of poking). Then I had to book a hotel in Amsterdam, because I forgot to do it in London :( Amsterdam is crazy expensive. Eventually found one that was reasonably priced and not too dodgy, but it has a shared bathroom, and I don't even know about internet. Oh well.

So bed after midnight.


Distance covered on the GPS: 39.9 km
Steps walked: 38450
Photos on the Canon: 370
Photos on the Sony: 115
Videos: ?
EUR Spent: 83.10

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