May 2012 Archives

Well it's taken two trips to Japan to do it, but I finally made it to Universal Studios Japan!

All to go on the Back to the Future ride. Which turned out to be one of the most underwhelming rides I went on. Ahem.

When I was looking at the park guide I was thinking there wasn't actually all that much to see. And actually it probably would have been pretty easy to see everything in a day. I went on all the rides (I think!) and saw most of the shows except for the Shrek 3D and Animation show. I'd seen a few of the other shows and they were all in Japanese, so still good and all but you don't get the full experience out of them.

I got there at 8:45 for a 9:00 opening. At least that's what the website said but it didn't actually open til 9:30 :(

First up I hit the "Hollywood Dream" roller coaster because it looked like the ride that would be the most popular later in the day (I was right!). Went on that three times in a row (as a "single rider"). (There's lockers right by the ride for this one).

Then had a wander round, doing Jaws (in Japanese, but I'd seen a video of it in America so knew about what was going on), Jurassic Park (the front left seat will get you very wet), Backdraft (first bit all in Japanese but fire show at the end was pretty spectacular), Back to the Future (meh..! long wait, no singles line, and not helped by having a really tall guy right in front of me obscuring most of my view), Spiderman (this was fun, went back on this later in the day), Space Fantasy (this was a great little roller coaster - in the dark with fairy lights so very pretty; I ended up going on it four times - twice early on and twice later in the day - and had a different experience each time because the carts spin around. Too much fluff at the beginning too), Terminator 2 show (bit of a lame intro with this woman being funny in Japanese, then into a theatre which had a reasonable 3D show with some live actors interacting with it), Waterworld show (at 14:30, and I'm sure a good chunk of the park was there - it was very crowded! But a pretty decent show), into the "Wonderland" to look around and went on the water slide.

So now I'm mostly done but it's still pretty early. So decided to do the Hollywood Dream roller coaster a few more times. Another four times in fact ;) The singles line meant no queueing which was totally awesome.

Had some dinner (very expensive beer and pizza, but it was nice), went back and repeated a few things (see above), then went back to Hollywood Dream, doing it another seven times.

So I went on the same roller coaster fourteen times in one day! Win!!
Best experience was definitely in the middle of the train. Front was ok, and back has the good dip at the beginning, but the middle gave you the best feelings of weightlessness as you went over bumps.

At 19:30 I got off and wandered around taking photos of the buildings with their pretty lights on.

And at 20:00 watched the Magical Starlight parade. I'd seen Nat's photos of this but wasn't prepared for how huge the floats were. For someone who likes bright shiny coloured things I was in heaven heh (although it was a little loud).

And then I went back to the hotel for a pretty late night.

Distance covered on the GPS: 50.8 km
Steps walked: 28564 (taking off 2000 for bumpy rides, although no idea how much it actually was)
Photos on the Canon: 136
Photos on the Sony: 69
Videos: 6

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 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 - - 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. 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?

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

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 :(


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

I'm still after someone to come and give me a foot massage.. I've done just over 100000 steps in the past four days!

First stop this morning was a short walk to Garden Lodge - Freddie Mercury's old home (and current home of Mary Austin) in Kensington. There's a bunch of written notes to Freddie stuck to the walls (behind some plexiglass heh).

Then the tube into town to go to St Paul's cathedral. I arrived at the opening time of 8:30 and ended up spending three hours there! The audio tour there was actually an audio/video things on an iPod! Climbed all the way to the top of the domes for some great views of London.

Then walked across the Millennium Bridge to go to the Globe Theatre. Got to see some Argentinians rehearsing for their show tonight - they were doing Henry IV Part 2 as part of the Globe to Globe festival (which sadly doesn't appear to have Hamlet in the original Klingon).

Back across the bridge and tubed over to Leicester Square to meet Campbell for lunch. We had some nice dumplings, and was good to catch up with him again.

Then we walked up the road a bit so I could get some more USB and SD memory at a pretty decent price too. Should do me until I get to Japan, then can use Stu's computer for the rest of the trip as the non-platter backup.

And finally to the British Museum. I was hoping to have most of the afternoon there, but with the late lunch and shopping, I ended up only having an hour and a half there :( Hoping to get some more time there tomorrow afternoon, but that's all a bit up in the air at the moment.

Stopped in at M&S on the way back to the hotel for some reasonably decent salads for dinner.

Distance covered on the GPS: 27.8 km
Steps walked: 25438
Photos on the Canon: 188
Photos on the Sony: 65+?
Videos: 0
GBP Spent: 35.36

So today started beautiful and sunny. I thought I might do a Thames River cruise first up, but it had already clouded over by the time I was going out, and it was raining by 9am :(

So my first stop was Aldgate so I could get a photo of Whitechapel Road for the Monopoly collection.

From there I was going to tube it over to Angel, but after looking for a "you are here" on a bus stop I realised there was a direct bus. I'd never been on a London red double decker bus before, so decided to do that. It took ages because it went through city peak hour traffic, but was still fun.

It was freezing cold and raining by this point. Blah.

Actually left Angel and went and found 12 Grimmauld Place (Claremont Square). Highlight of the morning heh.

Then back to Angel to get a photo of the station, and signs that said Angel Islington.

Considered walking to Kings Cross to get more photos of the platforms, but decided against it and went to Marylebone station instead. So my collection of Monopoly streets is complete. Except for the electric and water utilities.

Walked back to Baker Street to take photos of the Sherlock Holmes museum.

Then into Regents Park. The maps were a bit crap and didn't show you that the garden in the middle is one big dead end. So more walking there than necessary.

And onto the zoo. The whole experience was pretty meh. Certainly not helped by it raining the entire time I was there. So most of the animals were hiding from the rain. And they were doing all sorts of constructions all over the place so there were dead ends everywhere which meant lots of unnecessary walking :( So got my Harry Potter pics of the reptile house (although they're doing rennovations and I think they've blocked off the exact tank that was used. I'd have to see the movie again to check. Went into the butterfly room at one point but had to leave again pretty quickly because it was so hot and humid that my glasses and camera fogged up instantly :( Dread to think of how much condensation got in and stayed in. Pity too because it looked like there were heaps of cool butterflies. The penguins were very cool, but didn't stay for feeding time as really needed to get away. On the way to the part of the zoo on the other side of the road I noticed there was a canal boat ride to Camden. I tried to go for it later but it had either gone early or didn't come at all. So ended up having to walk.

Next stop - Westminster Abbey. I was worried about long queues, but only had to wait a couple of minutes. There's an audio guide (read by Jeremy Irons - yum!) which is reasonably decent, but certainly doesn't cover everything. Missed out on seeing the chapter house because they were setting up for a jubilee exhibition. You can take photos in the cloister area, but not in the abbey itself :( but did sneak one through the front door as I was leaving.

Then next door to the Jewel Tower. This was part of the old old Westminster Palace built around 1365 to house Edward III’s treasures and one of only two buildings from the medieval Palace of Westminster to survive the fire of 1834. The first floor has an exhibition about the history of the British Parliament, and the top floor has a bit more history on the building itself. I'd never heard of this building, and only went there because it was "free" with the London Pass and right next to the abbey. Apparently a lot of Londoners don't know about it either.

So now it's 5pm and the sun is starting to poke through the clouds :/ I thought I didn't want to go back to the hotel just yet if the sun was coming out. So went and found somewhere to get some food to wait a little longer.

Then went down to the river to see about a river cruise. Decided I'd do it, but just missed one. So wandered up to Cleopatra's Needle.

Then back for the last ferry of the day to Tower Bridge. Quite a nice little ride even if the sun wasn't really out. But it did shine on Tower Bridge right at the end which was pretty special.

And hotel, photos, blog, bed!

Distance covered on the GPS: 39 km
Steps walked: 29077
Photos on the Canon: 261
Photos on the Sony: 62
Videos: 3
GBP Spent: 15.40

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

A day of tombs and temples today. And a 4:30am start :(

First stop, after a forty minute coach ride, was the Valley of the Kings. No cameras allowed in there (xray bag checks) so left them on the bus. The ticket gives you entry to three tombs of your choice (except for Tutenkamen which is extra). Our tour guide recommended doing Ramses III, IX and IV, so that's what we did. They were pretty awesome, although someone said they'd been restoring the paintwork on them to make them look shinier. Will need to see if that is true.

Next stop, round the side of the mountain, was the temple of Hatshepsut. This temple is a very unusual design with ramps and terraces. Unfortunately not much is original - about eighty percent has been restored by a Polish team. Quickly explored that one.

A short hop to our next temple - Habu Temple. This one had some very deep heiroglyphics, and some beautiful paintwork.

A very quick stop at a couple of statues, that I must look up the significance of (one of them was cracked in an earthquake and the wind passing through it made it sound like it was whistling).

Back across the Nile to Karnak Temple. This was by far the most crowded place we have been to on this trip. An avenue of rams head sphynxes, a one hundred and thirty four column room, and two whole obelisks were the highlights of this huge temple complex. At one point one of the armed guards of the place beckoned to Dad and me to follow him to see a part of the temple that was normally fenced off. We tried to tell him we had no change (well I had enough change for two more toilet trips in the country so was saving that) but he said come anyway. Of course he wanted a tip anyway didn't he, so I gave him and the other dude a few of the pens that I brought along.

Just before twelve we drove to the airport and off we went back to Cairo. Sadly on the wrong side of the plane to see anything in Luxor or Cairo (and the plane was pretty much completely full except for the seat next to me), but could see the Red Sea and the Gulf of Suez off in the distance.

Got back to the hotel mid-late afternoon and did some photo backups for the parents. Also got all my videos and all my resized photos onto memory sticks that the parents will take home as a backup (my masters take up far too much space..hrmm).

Went with Jan and Howard to dinner at Thomas' again.

Then back here to blog and bed. Was going to wash my hair but think will leave that til London.

Distance covered on the GPS: 650.3 km
Steps walked: 17216
Photos on the Canon: 253
Photos on the Sony: 59
Videos: 3
EGP Spent: 17
USD Spent: 50

Today seemed like a relatively quiet day, yet I'm totally exhausted. What I thought was too much meat at lunch yesterday was probably slightly more serious as I had to clear the bowels a few times overnight :( Fortunately things settled down by the time it was time to go out. Turns out the parents had something similar, mum more so. But everyone else was ok. Took some imodium just in case.

Out the door by 7am this morning.

First item on the agenda was a horse and carriage ride around to the temple at Edfu.

It's fricken huge!!

A beautiful temple, that we wandered around for a while.

Then back on the horse and carriages back to our ship.

Set sail and continued north.

I had an attempt at sleep, not sure if successfully. Also tried to do some photo selection for the blog.

Came up on deck a bit before 12pm so we could watch the ship going through the locks at Esna dam. I don't think I've ever been through a lock so that was pretty fun. There were some brazen vendors on row boats throwing things up for stories to the deck of our ship trying to get people to buy things. Some of them were attaching themselves to the ship and going through the locks with us - craziness! I wonder if any of them ever get squished..

Lunch then another siesta attempt.

Coming into Luxor it was amazing how many cruise boats there are. Of course the majority of them are probably sitting idle at the moment. Along with the other Movenpick ship we were travelling together with, we parked next to five ships! So to get off and on our ship we had to walk through the foyers of a total of seven ships!

In Luxor we got a bus to the temple of Luxor. oK so *this* is where they got the inspiration for the city in The Ten Commandments. There's a row of something like eighty sphinxes outside the temple! And this was only a small part of what was once a much longer street. Another beautiful temple, this one having had to be restored significantly. Light was a bit bad (it was very late in the day) so not the best for photos, but did get some nice ones at some angles.

Back to the boat, then dinner, then photos and blog. Annoyingly they won't let you settle your bill til 9pm, which is a bit dumb because I plan to be in bed by then (or at least on the way to it!)

Edit. Just as I was about to start brushing my teeth reception called and asked me to come settle the bill. Pity it wasn't a couple of minutes later, I would have said no, I'll do it in the morning. Don't mess with tired people dammit!!

Distance covered on the GPS: 127 km
Steps walked: 9604
Photos on the Canon: 268
Photos on the Sony: 27
Videos: 16
EGP Spent: 56

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

5:30 wake up today, although I preempted that and woke up at 5:00.

Last of the Prince Abbas breakfasts today, then we headed out to the Temple of Kalabsha, and the other temples that had also been rescued from rising lake waters and put there.

Came back and then left the Prince Abbas for good.

Got a minivan over the Aswan High Dam and stopped on top for some photos.

Then down to through Aswan to the Nile where we had a felucca boat ride down the Nile. That was pretty amazing and very peaceful.

This brought us to our new ship, the Giselle, a couple of kilometres down the river.

Checked in and had lunch. This ship does buffet style meals instead of off a menu, but the buffets looked amazing. Also a lot more people on this boat (forty - seems a lot to us after the last boat of twenty one, but till nowhere near the boat's full capacity).

After lunch I lay down for a little while and attempted to sleep.

Then we headed out again to see a "Nubian Village". Actually the boat trip up the Nile I enjoyed more, getting to see some sights and lots of different birds. The village itself is a mudbrick village on an island in the Nile made up of people that were displaced by the filling of the dam. We were with some other groups, so it was like taking all these rich white people to see how the poor people lived, which made me feel a bit weird. Lots of little kids coming up with their hands out too asking for "baksheesh". At this point I was kicking myself that I'd forgotten the little bundle of pens that I brought for just this purpose. We stopped in one of the houses and went upstairs for some tea, which was nice.

Hopped on the boat again to go further down the same island to the Movenpick hotel for high tea at the top. The little restaurant area has three sixty degree views of Aswan and the river so had some nibblies and some yummy lemon drink and watched the sunset.

Back on another boat to get back to our big boat. They said we could sit on the roof if we wanted so I jumped at the chance (since the sun had set). There wasn't actually any seats so I stood there, but it was really pretty cruising down the Nile in the twilight.

Dinner was spectacular, but then we've come to expect that ;) But I actually ate very little (been eating far too much!).

Then to blog and bed.

Distance covered on the GPS: 51.2 km
Steps walked: 9584
Photos on the Canon: 317
Photos on the Sony: 36
Videos: 8
EGP Spent: 245

Very quiet day today.

Started early (up at 5:30). Buffet breakfast, then off the boat at 7:00 to head over to the Sebua temples.

Firstly the Sebua temple. I'm guessing this is where they got the inspiration for the city in The Ten Commandments with its gate and sphinx-lined entrance. (edit: probably not - see a later entry)

Then the Dakka temple.

And finally the Maharraqa temple.

So we were all hot and sweaty but back on the boat by 9am.

I didn't do much all morning. Attempted to sleep (given that it seems I've finally succumbed to the colds my parents have had for the past couple of week - epic grunt), but mostly failed. Did a bit of computer stuff and sorted out paperwork for the past few weeks and tidied that part of my suitcase. And fixed the strap on the little bag I bought a few days ago.

Lunch was pretty huge considering we were doing nothing all afternoon.

After lunch we circumnavigated all the floors on the boat to try and get our step count up.

Then I just vegged out and backed up photos and attempted to sleep (failed again :( ). I was going to have a go at getting some photos ready to blog, but I left my perl scripts that I use to make the process easier at home and couldn't be bothered rewriting them.

Went up to watch the sunset (not as good as last night). And then hung around to watch the moonrise. And could see Aswan in the distance.

We arrived at Aswan just on 7:30pm, so a bunch of us watched the mooring and were a bit late for dinner.

Dinner was lovely as always.

And then it's photos, blog, and bed.

Distance covered on the GPS: 158.5 km
Steps walked: 7782
Photos on the Canon: 196
Photos on the Sony: 22
Videos: 2
EGP Spent: 28

So I did something today that I think I've only ever done once before in my life - watch the sunrise and the sunset on the same day!

So our wakeup call this morning was at 4:15am.


Yes, apparently there *is* a 4:15 in the morning.. who knew!

We were off the boat at 4:45 to walk around to the temples of Abu Simbel.

This was the best idea ever (the orginal itinerary has you going there at like three in the afternoon - when it's crazy hot and the lighting is all wrong). So we were sitting in front of the temples as the sun rose which was way cool. Had a look inside both temples. It's just amazing the amount of work that went into not only the original creation of the monuments, but also to move them to higher ground when the lake started filling up behind Aswan High Dam. The larger temple has not only the main passage, but also a series of little side rooms. We had the place almost entirely to ourselves. There was just one other couple that came and went.

So we had a couple of hours there, and were back on the boat a little before seven.

Cast off from our mooring and motored around to see the temples from the lake which was great as well. People on coach trips from Aswan were arriving as we left. They had to get up at like 2am or something silly to make it down for the early morning. Craziness!

Then we had breakfast - buffet style.

And then I attempted to get a little more sleep. Not sure how successful I was.

Our next stop was Qasr Ibrim. Although we didn't actually get off the boat, just had a look at the fortress and then moved on.

Lunch was off a menu again. Very swishy.

After lunch I washed three tshirts, then we stopped at Amada to see the temples. It was *hot* here! Got to the beach on lighters and saw the Amada temple. This temple they brought up the hill in one piece by reinforcing it and separating it from the bedrock and dragging the whole thing up the hill on railway tracks.

Also saw the smaller Derr temple and Pennut's tomb. Sadly a good chunk of the wall carvings in the tomb had been stolen in the 1960s after it was moved so there's great gouges in the walls where the carvings had been taken :(

Did a bit of computer stuff before afternoon tea, then I had a swim in the pool on the top deck. It's a bit of a silly shaped pool, either too deep or too shallow, but it was certainly refreshing!

Got out and watched the sunset. And then walked across to the other side of the boat and saw the moonrise! (well it had already risen) I think it's a perigee full moon tomorrow night. Must remember to try and see it.

Before dinner there were cocktails - there was a tequila sunrise, and a whiskey sour (I had that one - it was really nice), and a couple of non-alcoholic ones.

Dinner was a buffet of Egyptian food, which was pretty good.

Then back to the room to do photo and blog stuff.

Distance covered on the GPS: 149 km
Steps walked: 12333 (6000 before 7am!)
Photos on the Canon: 220
Photos on the Sony: 20
Videos: 11
EGP Spent: 23

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

Slept in til the alarm went off at 6am so that was pretty good.

Another pretty good breakfast although no beef bacon today :(

Drove through Tahrir Square (nothing much happening at the moment there).

Our first stop was Salah Al Din Citadel, a big old fortress that apparently was never attacked, so is in remarkably good condition.

Didn't really see anything much of the fortress except the outer walls, but instead went to the Mosque of Mohammed Ali.

There were a whole group of very scantily clad girls in front of us, so they were given robes to cover up. They were also the ones throwing their shoes down soles-down on the carpets inside the mosque. hrmm.

There's a pretty good view from outside. Should have been able to see the pyramids but it was too hazy today.

Next stop was a shopping area with narrow alleys and bazaars. But apart from some stuff near the entrance square, nothing much was open, and I wasn't really interested in anything anyway.

Met up at the meeting place in this nice cafe, which was a little reminscent of something out of a movie. All it needed was ceiling fans!

Back through the CBD and back through Tahrir Square.

To the Egyptian Museum.

Security here is pretty strict here as well - xrays at the courtyard entrance. You can take photos in the courtyard but not inside. So if you want to take your cameras in to photograph the building, you then have to leave your camera at the checkpoint at the outer entrance, where you get a token for retrieval.

So into the building, another xray bag check.

We had the guide for a while and he took us round and showed us a few things. Then he gave us an hour to explore, but we asked for an hour and a half. Of course you could see maybe 5% of the museum in that time. hrmm. So we went in to see Tutenkamen. Spectacular! And all the stuff in his tomb - amazing! Then went and saw the royal mummies (100LE extra). Then some aimless wandering. There was this creepy guy in the animal mummy room who kept staring at me wherever I went, so really couldn't concentrate on the room until he eventually left :(:( So did our wandering then left, then came back to the hotel.

Had to fight the internet connection (it's ~$18 for 24 hours :( ) but the connection in my room was stuffed so had to get onto tech support for them to fix it. Blah.

At 6:30 we got picked up to go to a Nile dinner cruise.

Getting food was quite chaotic, but was nice enough (they carved up a *massive* turkey! - or maybe it wasn't massive to American standards, but looked pretty big to me!).

There was a belly dancer, and a whirling dirvish, and some singer. But after dinner we all headed up on deck to watch the lights. The boat mostly went round in circles in a little section of the Nile, so didn't get it to see all that much.

After two hours we got back and headed back to the hotel.

Radio silence for a few days after this - not even mobile phones or credit cards work anywhere south of Aswan.

Distance covered on the GPS: 50.2 km
Steps walked: 11720
Photos on the Canon:
Photos on the Sony:
EGP Spent:

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.


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

So the wakeup call this morning came at 5am.


Got ready and picked up our "breakfast boxes" and headed for the bus.

There were a pair of Canadians and a pair of Americans who were on a different Insights tour along for the day as well.

So off we all headed to Alexandria.

Had some of the breakfast box on the bus (but I forgot to document the contents!). There were several rolls (two large - one cheese, one meat, and two small), a croissant, yoghurt, juice, jam, butter, a banana and an apple. Enough for breakfast *and* lunch! Although far too much bread for my liking (and my bowels aren't thanking me either).

Took a little over three hours to get to Alexandria. Apparently today was a public holiday so the traffic was considered to be fairly light.

Our first stop was the Alexandria Museum. The tour guide said "leave your cameras on the bus" so I immediately started stressing out :(:( Took the memory sticks out and brought them with me. The museum does xray bag checks as well as metal detectors. Apparently the rationale is that when it's crowded, people taking photos makes everything take too long. And when they say no flash people would still use flash anyway. So now they ban cameras completely. Which just makes it stressful for people like me who need to be with their cameras at all times :(:(:( Had an hour to wander around the museum, which is relatively small.

Second stop was the catacombs. Again the guide said no cameras. Manual bag searches here and metal detectors. Around the top of the area they have a whole heap of sarcophagi that they've brought up. So you go down this spiral staircase which is where they used to lower sarcophagi down. Then there's chambers off to the sides - a big super fancy one with amazing stone carvings, and then around lots of passages around the sides are the "commercial" areas which were just plain empty holes (the sarcophagi were upstairs, and apparently they only found a very few mummies there as most had been taken, probably for fertiliser).

Third stop was Pompey's Pillar, which apparently is famous..

Fourth stop was the roman theatre and collonaded street.

And the final stop was the Qaitbay Citadel which is a pretty cool castle (although it does look somewhat restored as it looks in a little too perfect condition).

Traffic through some of the small streets in Alexandria was pretty insane. Actually it wasn't even so much that the streets were small, it's just that in recent times illegal street vendors have gathered, taking up lanes and causing traffic chaos. If we thought Jordan was bad it's even crazier here! Road rules and parking rules are non-existent. Whoever's in front (mostly) has right of way. Most of the cars have scrapes from obviously very frequent crashes.

Got to do lots of people watching while negotiating the traffic. One thing I don't like is how many idle men there seem to be. They just stand or sit around either by themselves or in groups and just *stare* at us. Not very pleasant at all. Much fewer women around and almost never with men. When we got to the coast there was a bit more mixing.

So left Alexandria just after 2pm and got back to the hotel just before 6pm.

Went straight out to look for some snackages and also get some dinner.

Then back here to do photos and blog.

I'm almost delirious tonight I'm that tired. I'm forgetting things and everything is that much harder and taking that much longer to do :(:( Need to collapse into bed but need to do washing even more - as tomorrow we don't get back to the hotel til like 9:30pm :(:(:(

Distance covered on the GPS: 460.8 km
Steps walked: 10026
Photos on the Canon: 193
Photos on the Sony: 20
Photos on the iPhone: 4, if my computer would read it
Videos: 10
EGP Spent: 71.50

Pretty quiet day today.

Breakfast was no more inspiring than yesterday. Checked out and was not sorry to see the back of that hotel.

We stopped briefly at the rest stop we stopped at on the way down. Then continued onto Karak Castle, built by the Crusaders.

I wasn't in the best of moods (lack of sleep and annoyance with hotel and hitting my head on the bus didn't help), so didn't take many photos.

Had lunch in a little restaurant in Karak, I think that belonged to a relative of our tour guide.

Our guide said he hated coming to Karak because of the traffic, and we could see why. We had to walk a couple of hundred metres up the hill because someone had just parked in the road so there wasn't enough room for the bus to get past. Then after lunch we had to get around this tiny corner with cars parked all around it. It took a miracle and some pretty skillful driving for the driver to get us out of that one! On the way down the hill we were going slow enough through all the traffic to actually watch the people going about their business, and looking at all the stores. It was actually pretty cool.

Then continued to Amman airport.

First step is security getting into the airport itself - everything is xrayed, metal detector and brief frisk search.

Getting through immigration was relatively painless, and then had two hours to kill. We were in a spot that was close enough to the Royal Jordanian lounge to pick up their wifi, so sat and read news feeds on my phone.

They didn't open the gate itself until just before boarding, when it was security again to get to the gate.

Had a little Embraer 195 jet that was only about 1/2 to 2/3 full. And it conveniently has a small hook on the seat in front for hanging GPSes :)

Had a grumpy flight attendant who made us all put our backpacks in the overhead lockers, which is a first for me - every other flight I've ever taken I've been able to keep it under my seat.

It was pretty hazy and cloudy and the aeroplane windows were filthy so didn't see much, but did fly into Cairo from the south east, then looped around to fly across the city and land. We saw several pyramids and our hotel so that was pretty cool.

Getting through immigration at Cairo was also relatively painless. Withdrew some money and paid 95EGP for a Visa (cash only, not credit card - lame).

Then the tour bus to our hotel which took at least an hour.

This hotel is pretty damned fancy, but at least lives up to its price tag (which incidentally I have no idea what that is). This is the nicest of the "fancy" hotels we've stayed in. Haven't figured out how much the internet is here, it wouldn't connect me properly.

I am *exhausted*. Didn't get to bed til after 11pm, then woke up at 5am. But this afternoon I came down with the cold that's been going around the group (Dad's had it pretty bad the last couple of days). There's a 5am wakeup call to go to Alexandria tomorrow. I debated skipping it, but at least there'll be five hours on the bus to snooze.

Distance covered on the GPS: 1013 km
Steps walked: 13690, but I'm taking off 5500 due to bumpy roads screwing up the count
Photos on the Canon: 107
Photos on the Sony: 173
Videos: 1
JD Spent: 0.9
EGP Spent: 97.5