Tales of Travel: Leaving London

The decision to leave London was one that we made early in 2009.

Everything started to fall into place when Tall was head-hunted back by the company he’d worked for prior to us leaving Dunedin. He’d already put them off once, but with the doom-and-gloom recession starting to hit New Zealand, he recognised he was lucky to have received such an offer.

Flights to South America for one final jaunt on the way home booked and paid for, we then found out I was pregnant with Tiny. A few weeks of tears and “should we? shouldn’t we?” later, we both handed in our resignations, and began the process of packing up our lives and preparing to leave the country that had been home for almost two-and-a-half years.


I knew that the hardest part about leaving would be saying good-bye to my sister and her family (they stayed in England for a few more months longer), and to the wonderful friends I’d made. But I always knew we wouldn’t stay indefinitely, and that my sister would head back to Melbourne, and I knew that I would always keep in touch with those friends who really mattered. So instead of spending our last few months thinking about what we were leaving behind, we chose to make the most of our time and made sure we saw and did all those things we’d been putting off.

Picnic at Hampstead Heath with my sister and family

Things like visiting museums and galleries, going to see The Phantom of the Opera and having a picnic at Hampstead Heath.

Brighton Pier

Visiting Brighton, taking last strolls for squirrel watching around Hyde and St James’ Parks, and having one last shopping spree on Oxford Street and the maze of streets in Covent Garden.

Course four at Le Gavroche – scallops cooked with ginger, oh my!

Going out for a fancy eight course Michelin-star meal at Le Gavroche, and having “last drinks” at the various pubs we’d spent so much time in over the past couple of years.

Squirrel!! I love squirrels.

There were tears – copious amounts of them – and hugs I never wanted to end, and promises of keeping in touch. There were removal men collecting our boxes for shipping home, and strangers collecting items we’d sold on eBay. There were new tenants to take over our lease, goods to be donated to Oxfam, and food to be used up.

And suddenly, it was the 1st of November, and we were in a taxi in the driving rain, on our way to Heathrow Airport. The tears had dried up, and the excitement and anticipation of eight weeks in South America had set in.


Tales of Travel: Hungary to the Czech Republic (Part Three)

(Part One and Part Two)

The morning of our 6am flight from Prague to London, we were up at 4am, and at the airport by 5am.

“Our flight’s been cancelled,” Tall said after consulting the departure board. I smiled weakly at his feeble attempt at a joke at such an early hour.

“No, seriously,” he said. “And all the other Sky Europe flights have been cancelled, too…”

I squinted up at the departure board. He was right. Every single Sky Europe flight had been cancelled.

“Wait here,” Tall instructed. “I’ll be back in a sec.”

I seated myself on our little suitcase, feeling weak from morning sickness and hunger. Luckily we’d saved some fruit from lunch the day before, and I began to tuck in while I waited.

Tall came back with a grim look on his face.

“Guess which airline’s just gone bust?” he asked.

My jaw dropped. I blinked rapidly a number of times. I stared at him in disbelief.

“Sky EuROPE??” I squeaked.

“Yep. And their office is locked and no one else seems to want to tell me what’s going on.”

Now, if you’ve ever watched one of those airline shows, you’ll have seen this happen. And you’ll have thought, “Oh, those poor b*st*rds, that would suck”, and then you’ll have felt an almost-smug sense of relief that this unfortunate incident has ever happened to you.

Well…I can tell you that it does suck, and that when it happens to you, you have two options. You can fly into a rage and scream and yell and cry and throw your toys, or you can calmly shrug your shoulders, take a deep breath and work out how you’re going to get home.

By some miracle, Tall and I both went for option number two. He, by nature, is calm and rational. I, by nature, am emotional and often irrational, but I was exhausted and unwell, and didn’t have the energy to waste on getting worked up about a situation that was so far beyond our control.

We found an internet station and tried to book our way back to London by any means possible. We emailed our workplaces and told them that the chances were we wouldn’t be back that day, as planned. We listened to a young English guy talking to his girlfriend on the phone; she was obviously p*ssed at the delay, and he was getting angrier by the moment, at her and the situation.

After coming up with no financially viable options for getting back to London, we started to do the rounds of the other airline counters. In line for British Airways, we listened as the price per seat went from just under £300 (already ridiculously high for a one-hour flight that had initially cost us less than £50, total) to just under £1000, as the line grew and people got more and more anxious.

There was no way we could afford that kind of money, so we found another airline counter – for the cutely named Wizz Air – that had just opened and managed to buy two tickets for the following morning, at a much more affordable price.

Then we headed back into the city, checked back into our hotel and spent another, unplanned day in the beautiful city of Prague. And when I say “we” spent another day in the city…I mean that I slept and Tall went off exploring on his own.

Needless to say, we made sure we arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare the next day, and made it back safe-and-sound to London.

(And in case you were wondering, we had sensibly paid for our Sky Europe flights with credit card, and were refunded the costs of our flights. Your lesson to take away from this? Always, ALWAYS pay for flights by credit card if you can!)

Tales of Travel: Hungary to the Czech Republic (Part Two)

(Part One)

From Bratislava, we took a boat up the Danube into Vienna, which was a fantastic way to travel – although I’d recommend you take a packed lunch, as the on-board food is terrible and overpriced.

A fountain somewhere in Vienna…I was too ill to take much notice of where we were!

Unfortunately, I spent most of our time in Vienna with my head down the loo, and as such, I don’t have the fondest memories of our time there. The sights of Vienna are quite spread out, and instead of walking between them like we normally would, we chose instead to do a bus tour which turned out to be great (and if you buy your ticket after 3pm, it’s still valid for the entire next day!). The highlight for me was visiting the beautiful Belvedere Palace and seeing one of my favourite paintings, Gustav Klimt‘s “The Kiss”…and eating sweet, juicy peaches on the front steps after visiting the amenities a number of times.

St Stephen’s Cathdral

We also visited Schönbrunn Palace and St Stephen’s Cathedral, both of which were breathtaking. We’d considered attending an opera – we were in Vienna, after all! – but decided against it given my current state of well-being.

Our “hotel” in Brno. Erm…..yeah.

From Vienna, it was on to the Czech Republic; first stop: Brno. Well. We made the mistake of asking the lady at the train station to book our accommodation, and ended up staying in the dodgiest halfway house, in a shoebox-sized room with no air conditioning and a 30degC night. Brno was simply a stop-over for us, but we did spend the afternoon wandering around, visiting interesting-looking buildings that we had no ideas about.

A church on a hill in Brno. Great views from the top.

From Brno, we took the train to Prague, the chocolate-box city we had high expectations of. It was postcard-perfect in its beauty, and every street seemed to be home to a fascinating museum, church, artwork or historic monument.

The Astronomical Clock

We joined the throngs outside the Astronomical Clock, to wait for its highly-anticipated and wildly-disappointing 45-second chime, and wandered past the shops and restaurants to Wenceslas Square.

The castle’s cathedral, I believe…

We strolled up to the castle, which I found a bit disappointing, but the views over Prague are amazing, and it is interesting to wander the grounds.

Glorious Prague

We found one of the famous outdoor bars, where you find a patch of dog-poo-free grass on which to drink your beer while looking out over the city. We crossed the Charles Bridge and enjoyed wandering in the Wallenstein Gardens, and had fun spotting all the crazy art works dotting the city.

Ceska Republika

We stumbled upon a lovely little riverside restaurant (we were pretty good at this!), where Tall’s dessert was the most breathtaking and delicious concoction we have ever seen. A chocolate collar around a perfectly cooked fondant hid a white chocolate creamy-custard, fresh berries, and chocolate truffles….my morning sickness suddenly abated when I laid eyes on this unbelievable treat, and it tasted every bit as good as it looked. I just wish I could remember the name of the restaurant, so I could tell you to go there!

~ Stay tuned for Part Three! ~

Tales of Travel: Hungary to the Czech Republic (Part One)

Our very last trip into Europe was a 10-day affair involving four countries, five cities and one airline going bust.

It was August 2009, and I was suffering from severe morning sickness, but there was no way we were cancelling our last opportunity for European travel simply because I was hanging out in public toilets a fair chunk of the time.

Hungary’s beautiful parliament buildings

We started our trip in Budapest – a city I fell instantly in love with. It was exceedingly beautiful, the people were lovely and the food was delicious. We stayed in Pest, but spent most of our time wandering back and forth across the Danube into and out of Buda, across the many bridges.

Looking towards parliament and Margaret Island from Buda

We went to a large food market that smelled of heavenly smoked paprika, and Tall swam in the thermal pools of the famous Gellert Hotel.

Inside the Gellert Hotel

We climbed up to the castle and the Fisherman’s Bastion; we wandered down to the gorgeous parliament building and along to the holocaust memorial (Shoes on the Danube Promenade) on the river.

Having a much-needed rest at the Fisherman’s Bastion

We took a bus to Margaret Island for a picnic lunch and a lazy afternoon in the sun, and visited Dohany Street Synagogue, the second largest “working” synagogue in the world. We ate the best Wiener schnitzel meal I’ve ever had, and wished we’d saved this gorgeous city for the end of our trip.

Man-sized portion of Wiener schnitzel

From Budapest, we travelled on to Bratislava, capital of Slovakia. Right from the start, we were put off, after being hauled off a train and fined €80 for sitting down before validating our tram tickets. My explanation that I was pregnant and needed to sit down fell on deaf ears, and we quickly realised that we had been targeted as easy prey by these transport “officials”. Nevertheless, we paid the fine and carried on, grumbling all the way about the supposed fall of communism.

Street art in Bratislava

The town itself had a very contrived feel to it – it felt as though it had been rebuilt (following the fall of communism and Czechoslovakia) with tourism in mind. The town square was filled with cafes and market stalls, and everyone spoke textbook English. Don’t get me wrong – it was very pretty and worth the visit, but it felt like a movie-set at times.

The main square

We visited Bratislava Castle, which was destroyed by fire in the early 1800s and rebuilt in the 1950s – and it’s still undergoing its transformation. “Underwhelming” is the best word I can think of to describe it; it only looked impressive from a distance.

Bratislava Castle

~ Stay tuned for Part Two! ~

Tales of Travel: Lisbon

It was a hot weekend in July 2009 when we visited Lisbon, the beautiful capital city of Portugal.

I spent the entire weekend drinking copious (and unusual) amounts of Diet Coke and feeling particularly unfit as we wandered around the city and surrounds…and a few weeks later discovered that I had been in the very early stages of my pregnancy with Tiny.

Ruins of Carmo Church, part of the convent that was destroyed in an earthquake of 1755

Lisbon is the vibrant, chilled out, slow-paced city that holds court as Portugal’s capital. Beautiful by day, soulful by night; an energetic, pastry-loving, tram-rattling place that seems not to care what the rest of the world is up to, and moves to its own fado-inspired beat.

Azulejos are everywhere, and in Lisbon….it just works!

Famous for azulejos (tiles), which cover every possible surface: buildings, metro stations, doors, churches, footpaths….they are everywhere and the history, colours and detail are amazing.

Cruising on Tram 28

It’s all about risking life and limb on Tram 28, trundling its rickety way up the winding hills; an experience not to be missed.

Looking out over the city from Castelo de Sao Jorge

It’s about exploring Alfama, getting lost amongst the cobbled streets that wind in and out, crossing each other in a strange dance, leading to Castelo de Sao Jorge, resplendent on the top of the hill. Amazing views over the city and the river towards Christi Rei, a minature Christ the Redeemer. Stumbling upon the best, most wonderful cafe (Santo Antonio de Alfama) where the salmon salad and the sea bream are to die for.

Cascais…find a spot and stick to it!

It’s about sweltering and battling with the sun-seeking, sand-searching hordes in Cascais, a popular beach town out of the city. Feeling caught between a rock and a hard place, between the blistering hot sand and the icy cold Atlantic Ocean.

Castelo dos Mouros

It’s about Castelo dos Mouros, in the fairytale town of Sintra – top of our “Castles We Have Seen” list. A 9th-Century Moorish castle, nestled 400-odd metres above sea level. The ramparts snake across the hill; stagger to the highest keep where the views are breathtaking and you can see the city in the distance.

Palacio Nacional da Pena

It’s about Palacio Nacional da Pena, an extravagant palace built by the nephew of crazy King Ludwig II of Neuschwanstein/Bavarian/Disneyland fame. The colours are faded and the facades are looking weathered, but it’s lavishly adorned in eclectic fashion. The views back to Castelo dos Mouros are impressive and it’s so peaceful being so high up in the hills.

Looking back towards Castelo dos Mouros

It’s about street peddlars with complete-and-utter crap to sell, and passing whispers of “Hashish? Cocaine?” if a dancing donkey isn’t to your liking.

At the top of Castelo de Sao Jorge

It’s about sticking to the cobbles outside the best Ginjinha bar in town, where the locals try not to spill a drop of the cherry brandy, and the tourists wonder silently whether they should eat the petrified cherry at the bottom of the cup.

Pasteis de Nata – seriously the best baked treat in the entire world!

And it’s about Pasteis de Nata – the gods’ and Lisbon’s little secret. Like a custard square, but baked into a light, flaky pastry shell, with the most delectable, silken creamy centre. Heaven in a pastry shell.

Tales of Travel: Croatia and Slovenia

No sooner had we moved into our new flat and unpacked a few belongings, than we were off on another adventure for Easter 2009! We were only too conscious of the fact that this was likely to be our last year in Europe, and we didn’t want to waste one precious moment.

We flew into Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, on Good Friday. Descending on a devoutly catholic country in the midst of one of the most important religious holidays was madness; there were people everywhere, and every church was packed full of worshippers and confessors. For this reason, we steered clear of most religious buildings, which is a shame as some of them looked amazing from the outside and would have been even more so inside, we’re sure.

Zagreb is a really cool mix of old and new, with a vibrant, hip population mixed with a great sense of tradition. We wandered the old town, came across a little church set in an archway in the road, visited a bustling inner-city farmers’ market, picnicked in a beautiful park and sat drinking Ozujsko, the local beer, in a cafe on the busy main square.

On Easter Sunday, we caught the train to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. At the train station, Tall took charge of buying our tickets. I stood back, suppressing giggles for a while, as he asked for tickets to “Libbyjubeyjanjar”…the poor teller looked so confused, so I had to jump in and gently say, “Um, he means “Loobleeaahna”!

The train ride was gorgeous – rolling green hills and wide, emerald rivers, churches perched precariously on the top of hills, a distinct shift from Mediterranean-style farms to Alps-style a-frames.

Ljubljana was very cute, with the winding river dividing the city in two. We climbed up to Ljubljana Castle, wandered through the antiques market, and drank copious amounts of delicious espresso.

At one sidewalk cafe, the waiter asked whether we wanted our espressos “normal” or “Italiano”. I (wisely) chose normal; Tall chose Italiano. The waiter raised an eyebrow and gave my husband a surprised but slightly impressed look, as did I – he’d always chosen the milky coffees up to that point. After the waiter had gone, I leaned across the table and said, “Are you sure about drinking an Italiano??”, and Tall replied, “Yep, I like to try different coffees.” I started to explain what an Italiano was, but we got distracted by a tiny dog wearing bootees being walked by his very individual owner, and then our coffees arrived. As I’d been about to explain, Tall’s Italiano was essentially coffee sludge. Strong, coffee sludge. Needless to say….he spent the next few hours bouncing off the walls in an excess of caffeinated energy!

We crossed the dragon bridge from the new to the old part of town, and strolled the cobbled streets looking for ice cream. Unfortunately we made a big error of judgement on our last day, and missed out on going to Lake Bled, which made us both very grumpy….especially when we had to wait for over an hour for the bus to the airport!

I think we were also both a bit over travelling, truth be told, but neither of us wanted to be the one to admit it! However, we did have a great time, and loved both cities, so it was worth the feelings of exhaustion upon returning home.

Tales of Travel: Living in London

Before leaving on our New-YorkNew-ZealandThailand adventure, we’d moved out of our St Albans flat – in deep, deep snow, no less (in fact, the morning we flew to NYC, we trudged from my sister’s house to the train station, in deep, deep snow…)! We spent a couple of weeks selling things on eBay and putting everything else into storage; it was scary how much stuff we’d accumulated in less than two years!

Snow at our front door…

Arriving back in England, we headed back to St Albans to stay with my sister while we looked for a new place to live; conscious of the fact that she had two young children, we wasted no time in figuring out what areas of London we’d consider living in, and set about the daunting task of trawling through ‘Flatmates Wanted’ ads online.

Tall was going to be commuting to St Albans six days a week (five for work, one to play cricket for Wheathampstead), so we needed to be near the Thameslink trainline. Our search, therefore, started in West Hampstead and nearby suburbs – the perfect spot with the train station for Tall, a good tube line to the centre of London for me, and loads of great pubs, bars and restaurants.

The first flat we looked at was in Swiss Cottage, a 10 minute walk from West Hampstead train and tube stations. It was on the third floor of a Victorian terrace, in a quiet street close to Finchley Road and not far from Hampstead Heath. The bedroom was huge, the lounge was even bigger, and the bathroom and kitchen were ginormous by English standards. The flatmates who were staying in the flat just happened to be a young kiwi couple, and we hit it off at that first meeting; she was huge fan of cooking shows on TV (yey for me!) and he was a massive Arsenal fan (yey for Tall!). We fell in love with the flat straight away, but had arranged to view another the same evening.

Swiss Cottage

That second flat was in West Hampstead itself, five minutes from the train and tube stations. The room was small but had a modern ensuite and a separate closet, and the rest of the flat was very tidy and had been recently redecorated….and the flatmates who were staying in the flat were – you guessed it – a young kiwi couple!

Knowing how quickly nice flats get snaffled up in London, we knew we had to make a decision immediately. That night, I called the first flat to say we were keen to take the room; it was tough situation as we didn’t want to seem too eager and scare them off, or too nonchalant and have them give the room to someone else. Luckily, we made a good impression, and they immediately agreed; the flat was ours!

Five days later, we were taking all our belongings out of storage and moving in to the flat that would be our home for the next seven months.

Tales of Travel: Windsor

One wintery Saturday in December 2008, my friend Jess and I took a train from the grey, concrete jungle of London to the rolling green pastures of….well….just out of London, to Windsor.

(That's fake snow)

Windsor is a beautiful town, with cobbled streets and gorgeous old buildings, a crooked pub and quaint little stores (as well as the usual high street offerings). We spent some time just wandering in and out of shops and alleyways….and watching as Santa’s sleigh was pulled down the main street by reindeer.

We had lunch in a traditional English pub that specialised in pies; the ceilings were low and the decor didn’t seem to have changed since the 1700s, but the pies were really tasty and were washed down with crisp New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

Windsor Castle

After lunch, we wandered back up to Windsor Castle. The castle is simply beautiful, and the interiors were opulent and elegant and so very regal. It was amazing to think that we were walking the same carpets (mostly) as Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Queen Mary.

Queen Mary’s dolls house was a highlight – the detail and craftmanship were phenomenal – and St George’s Chapel (burial place of 10 monarchs) was beautiful.

St George's Chapel

We could have toured Eton, or visited Ascot, but chose instead to take a relaxed approach to our visit; we both wanted to see the castle most of all, and once we’d seen that, we were quite content to jump back on a train bound for London.

All-in-all, Windsor was a great choice for a day trip from the capital – easy to get to, easy to navigate, easy to enjoy.

Tales of Travel: Italy

We planned to spend the winter of 2008/09 in hibernation, saving for our trip home to NZ to get married. However, we decided to have one last, awesome late-summer holiday before hunkering down….so it was off to Italy in September 2008.

First stop – naturally – was Rome. There is only one word to describe Rome: WOW! It’s an assault on the senses; around every corner there is a fantastic statue or building or ruin that takes your breath away, and you have to virtually wire your jaw shut to stop from tripping over it. I’ve heard it said that you either love Rome, or don’t, and I certainly fall into the LOVE IT!! category.

The Colosseum - everything we imagined it would be, and more

When we arrived, it was around 35deg and it was HOT. Nevertheless, we hit the streets and got thoroughly lost amongst hoards of bewildered tourists and glamourous locals. We gaped our way through the impressive Colosseum and wandered through the amazing ruins on Palatine Hill. The Trevi Fountain was a popular place (getting close enough to throw a coin over your shoulder was mission impossible), as were the Spanish Steps (oh, to be Audrey Hepburn and have a clear shot!).

Inside the Pantheon

The Pantheon was beautifully preserved, with the hole in the ceiling the only source of light, and the Temple of Adrian was a lovely sight in a bustling business area. The Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II was beautiful, and the panoramic views of Rome from the top of the steps were fantastic.

Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II

The Vatican City was okaaaay – I think after the amazing sights of downtown Rome, our expectations were pretty high. We queued for what seemed like hours in the heat (a tip: it would be worth buying the more expensive VIP-type pass to jump the queues at a place like this!).

St Peter's Basilica

St Peter’s Basilica was impressive, as were the vast numbers of (pilfered) art works in the museums. Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel have been restored over the years, and while ‘The Creation of Man’ was cool to see, the chapel had nothing on St Peter’s.

The massive cathedral in Florence

After imbibing probably twice our body weights in water, we took a train north to Florence. After orienting ourselves with the massive Duomo in the centre of the city, we quickly attempted our escape from the throngs of people, and after fighting our way across the goldsmith-filled Ponte Vecchio, found ourselves on the other side of the river, climbing what seemed to be a HUGE hill (the heat does funny things to your mind!) to find somewhere for a picnic lunch.

Not a bad spot for a picnic lunch!

We found an area near two pretty churches, with amazing views down into the city, and ate our proscuitto-and-random-cheese sandwiches. That was probably the last decent meal we had in Florence – we seemed to make some shocking choices of places to eat! After one meal at a ristorante offering ‘Menu Turistico’, we vowed never again to be pulled in by the English wording and tempting outdoor seats! We queued for a while to see Michelangelo’s ‘David’ – one piece of art that, unlike ‘The Mona Lisa’ or ‘The Creation of Man’, lives up to all the hype. The detail, the veins and muscles, the pose and the posture….it was awesome. Unfortunately you can’t take photos, but I think he’s something you have to see and walk around yourself to appreciate how amazing he (and Michelangelo’s talent) is.

One of the many, many, MANY churches in Bologna

Escaping the mobs of people, our next stop was slightly inland, to Bologna. Known as the food capital of Italy, I had high expectations from Bologna, and she didn’t disappoint. We stumbled into a great little cafe that had (a) the best mushroom risotto and (b) the All Blacks playing on the big screen! With our stomachs happily full, we climbed the 97m Torre Asinelli (one of Bologna’s leaning towers) for more brilliant views. Dinner at Pizzeria Bully was, despite the dubious-sounding name, a gastronomic delight, and the wine was phenomenal. There’s not a lot of “touristy” stuff to do in Bologna, but it was nice to stroll with the locals rather than be pushed along by a sea of camera-toting tourists.

'The Arena'

From Bologna, we headed further north to Verona. In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, we found ourselves in a very pretty city with a beautiful 1st-Century amphitheatre (‘The Arena’) slap bang in the middle.

Juliet's balcony

Narrow, cobblestoned streets and pedestrianised piazzas make this a fun and easy place to explore and get lost in, although the crowds in search of Casa di Giulietta make it a little less poetic than you’d expect. The House of Juliet, with THAT balcony, has a free courtyard, and people jostling to have their photo taken leaning down to their Romeo. There’s a bronze statue of Juliet, and apparently rubbing her heart brings you a new lover….for many, I think it’s just an excuse to touch her boob. The walkway into the courtyard is covered with graffiti and post-it notes of couples declaring their love – it sounds tacky, but it’s actually quite cute. After dinner, we strolled past The Arena and an opera had just started – it was so beautiful and haunting, but our dwindling budget didn’t stretch to the €90 seats, so we sat outside on the steps for a while, and then I had to be content to drift off to sleep with the cast of “The Notre Dame of Paris” singing my lullabies.

Gondolas and canals, gondolas and canals, gondolas and canals...

The following day, we took a day trip to Venice. We had no map, and no real idea of what we wanted to do or see, so we got ourselves terrifically lost in the tiny, winding streets. The canals and gondolas were pretty, and walking through ankle-deep water to get across Piazza San Marco because the tide was up was an experience.

St Mark's Square

The street hawkers were bolshy (I could have bought “genuine” Gucci/Louis Vuitton/Chanel/Hermes/Bulgari bags  – in fact, I could have bought one of each, all for less than the price of a real one!) and everything seemed to have tripled in price, but the carnavale masks were beautiful and the Murano glass sparkled temptingly in the sun. There were a few too many people for our liking, but Venice was definitely worth visiting. We enjoyed some really good hole-in-the-wall pizza, too!

Roma, ti amo!

Our whirlwind nine-day tour ended back in Rome, where we soaked up one last afternoon in one of the most dizzying and beguiling cities in the world. There is so much truth in the saying “Roma, non basta una vita” (“Rome, a lifetime is not enough”); I loved it, and would go happily back for more.

Tales of Travel: Dublin

Warning: this post contains no pictures because, once again, we’d forgotten to check the camera battery before flying out. The friend we stayed with did take pictures, but subsequently had issues with her camera, and we never actually saw them.

One of Tall’s friends was living in Dublin for some of the time that we lived in England, and continually bugged us about going to visit her. “You’ll love it!” Jo enthused. “And you may as well come when you’ve got free accommodation…”

So when Ryan Air had 1p (yes, that’s one pence) flights from London to Dublin, we decided the time was right to take her up on her offer to be our personal tour guide.

We arrived late on a Friday night and were whisked from Jo’s flat to an apparently-exclusive  nightclub almost immediately (after a necessary change from our jeans and tees into more appropriate outfits); the cover charge was €20 each, and Tall paid €50 for three drinks at the bar, and we quickly realised that everything we’d heard about Dublin being expensive was true. Whether it was because they’d adopted the euro, or because of the failing economy (thanks to a boom in construction and wealth, followed closely by the recession and subsequent collapse of many businesses), I don’t know, but we certainly noticed a big difference in the change we got (or not!) for the same type of service we were used to.

The following day, we played tourists. We visited Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells, and took a really interesting tour of Kilmainham Gaol (where many of the most important leaders of the various Irish rebellions were imprisoned). We headed to the Guinness Factory, but it was closed on that particular day (no idea why!), so instead we went to a tiny little pub and drank Guinness there. We spent a fair amount of time walking to save on taxi and bus fares, and Jo pointed out interesting little spots along the way.

That night, Tall and I went out for dinner in Temple Bar, famous for cobbled streets, a lively nightlife…and tourists. The meal was average (so much so that I have no recollection of what we ate), and in the early hours of the next morning, Tall had the worst case of food poisoning possible.

Needless to say, we spent the rest of our time in Dublin at Jo’s flat – Tall was in no condition to go anywhere, and we were flying out that night so were hoping he would recover in time. He did, thankfully, but spent the rest of the week recovering, and has some not-particularly-fond memories of our one and only trip to Ireland.