Thursday, May 9, 2013

Europe 2013

When you do something, you often say "why did I wait so long before doing this?". I have been to or lived in Australia, Hong Kong, US, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Rarotonga, Peru, and Taranaki, and I had yet to make the trip to Europe, the typical Kiwi OE (overseas experience). With a 60th birthday to attend in Croatia, there were no more excuses - and a four week trip was planned and executed. Wow, four weeks off work - big ask, and if you don't ask you don't receive. Then there were the cats... we found a wonderful lady Jan Philpott to house-sit for us and look after our two cats Tattoo and Spider - definitely no excuses left now.

Where Are We Going?

Auckland to Los Angeles to London Heathrow.


  • May 9, Air New Zealand NZ2 to Los Angeles and London.
  • Once we arrived in London on the Friday morning, we had the weekend to explore the city. The Underground is truly fantastic and after a bus tour of the city to get our bearings, we were walking and "tubing" from one side of the city to the other. This was our 'must see all the sights of London' phase.
  • Then we headed up to Edinburgh, Scotland by train, 1st Class, very nice. Left my phone on the train :-( and then got it back :-) Did the sightseeing and pounded the streets. AirBNB accommodation.
  • Next stop Islay, for a pilgrimage to favourite whisky distilleries (especially Ardbeg - I'm on the Council). Hired a car that was only slightly narrower than the road. Wonderful Scottish country setting with lots of cold, open fires, warm beer and divine whiskies - no rain though - good weather everywhere we went. Beautiful white cottages, awesome oysters and discovered Cullen Skink (made of smoked haddock, potatoes and onions).
  • Then Croatia via RyanAir from Stanstead which was 'interesting' by itself - no dramas though besides queing practice for the rest of Europe. We're just not used to it. But Zadar and Maslenica where we stayed in a wonderful modern house, was another world altogether. Old and run-down, so many signs of the war - empty broken houses with bullet-holes. Dull, in a very bright and beautiful setting.
  • Split to Ancona on an overnight ferry. Noisy ferry - brrm brrm brrm all night long. Ancona was our landing place in Italy and then fast and tilting train to Venezia.
  • Lost and found in Venice! Wow what a place... a huge shopping mall for tourists, inside a world heritage location. Many photos taken, and living withing the historic calles, canals and buildings of old Venice made you think about all those who had gone before.
  • Three nights and off by train again to Firenze. We stayed right near the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, and in a relatively cheap and well set up place (Florence Old Bridge). Got pick-pocketed and reverted to retail therapy.
  • We took a train down to Pisa - well worth the trip - it IS amazing. Got fined on the train for not validating our ticket - that we just bought from the machine next to the train - go figure.
  • Then there was a trip up to the Ducati Museum and Factory in Bologna. Yes please, I'd like all-of-them. The factory shop was good too, but I didn't buy anything - and then hated myself... you know...
  • In order to train to Paris we went to Milan for the night. That's where we got an apartment. AirBNB accommodation. So nice to have a kitchen. I made pasta - of course ;-)
  • The train to Paris was reasonably comfortable - the Italian trains are really nice - this was the TGV from France - functional...
  • Paris - wow. Stayed in Montparnasse - good spot. Cheap but good and under E100 a night (Tim Hotel Paris Gare Montparnasse). Paris really deserves its own blog let alone post! (coming soon)
  • Eurostar back to London and a couple more nights to look around the city, including a dinner in Chinatown.
  • Plane home with Air New Zealand. Got questioned in LA by the US Customs - but just an issue with their system/my bio information, and sorted out easily. I'm not the man they thought I was... or something.
More stories and photos to follow.

Sitting in Hyde Park on a paid-for deck-chair, with phone in hand as usual. The phone was really good (Samsung S3) and many times we used it to find ourselves, and to get directions. The trick for a Southern Hemisphere traveller in the North is that you get the compass mixed up due to the position of the Sun. Its so weird... "Which way? this feels right, OK lets turn around completely and go the other way. Actually 3G was patchy, but we made do.