Tuesday, July 6, 2010

20th May 2010 - 30th June 2010 - Amsterdam, Belgium, France, UK


Looking at the dates above I realise I haven’t posted in a long time and after receiving so many requests to reignite this travel blog from our long list of devoted fans (Chris, Clare and Janette) it’s time to write another chapter of this epic journey of wonder!

Landing in Amsterdam the first thing we felt was short… The Dutch are giants! Besides feeling like a smurf due to our vertical inadequacies, we also felt happy and content (not unlike a smurf) as it wasn’t long before we emerged from our extremely comfortable hotel room and were gobbling cones of frite coated in globs of traditional mayonnaise, wandering the streets of idyllic Amsterdam (of course Sheena googled “best frite in Amsterdam”). Throw in a Heineken or two after a visit to my favourite café the Dampkring and we were well adjusted to the relaxed lifestyle that seems to accompany one of my favourite cities.

Canals & Bikes

Amsterdam isn’t all drugs and sex, and although a short visit wouldn’t be the same without a quick wander through the red light district where drunken hoards of English men on stag dos dare each other to go for it with the goods on display, the real beauty of Amsterdam comes from the amazingly green parks and the canals that ring the city, and the amazing galleries that have ignited a new found interest and respect for art that neither of knew existed within us (that Rembrant fella was quite handy with a brush). Add to the fact that literally everyone cycles everywhere, the place has a sense of vitality and a relaxed vibe that made it such a nice place to visit after spending months in Asia.

Giggling in Vondel Park

We only spent a few nights in Amsterdam and we could have easily spent more if it weren’t for the massive price hikes that occur over the weekend, so instead we jumped on a train to Belgium and decided to spend a few nights in Ghent of all places…

Ghent is kind of like a slightly less beautiful version of Bruges but was still worth a visit for once again it’s pretty canals and old medieval buildings (even though all the medieval buildings weren’t built during medieval times, they were built much later when everyone thought medieval buildings were cool). Ghent also had the best tasting waffles on the planet…

We had arranged to stay in a hostel located on a house boat in Ghent… or so we thought… the owners stuffed up and when we arrived late at night there wasn’t a room for us! So instead we were greeted by their neighbour and were taken aboard his house boat which we got all to ourselves! It had a funky retro designed interior with a big music system and great CD collection and the trusting neighbour left us to our own devices! It’s cool when things like that happen on your travels.

This photo makes us happy... and sad

“If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me but I didn’t, so it doesn’t…” - So Bruges wasn’t to the taste of Colin Farrells character in the film “In Bruges” but it did actually impress us. It really is like a magical fairy land! Made even more magical by 13% Alc Belgian beers that make your head spin. Oh and chocolate… lots of chocolate!

Bruges - Like a magical fairytale


After our Belgian experience, we spent 2 weeks in France. 1 week driving around the country side almost killing each other due to navigational differences, eating cheese and drinking wine in Normandy and the Loire Valley. The enormity of the D-day beaches was incredible and you could really picture what it must have been like during WWII.

D-Day Beaches

Mont St Michel

We stayed in a bit of style whilst we had the car, whether it was our stylish cabin in a pretty campsite or our extravagant châteaux (vineyard included) in the Loire valley. Having a car made all the difference to the trip, it wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

Carefree in our cabin

Robot dancing at Chataeu D'Amboise

This is the sort of accommodation we
stay in whilst "backpacking"

Our own château with vineyard

Unexpectedly painless, we drove into Paris, ditched the car and started researching where we should eat during our week in the gluttonous capital of the world. And eat is pretty much all we did really, coffee and croissants every morning from the local brasserie or boulangerie, baguettes and a glass of rose for lunch, then more rose in the afternoon, then a hearty French dish and some more rose in the evening! That pretty much sums Paris up besides watching the French protest as they tend to do and an outing to the fantastic Pompidou Centre where we saw Picasso’s, Kandinsky’s and films of crazy naked women from the sixties cutting heads off chickens in the name of feminist art! (sorry if that offends).

We both really enjoyed our time in Paris, wandering around the different arrondisments such as the Marais and the Latin Quarter, however there is quite a dirty side that doesn’t allow me to buy into the romanticised city of love it claims to be. The financial divide between black people and white people is so stark, it is clear there is a big social gap and there doesn’t appear to be any integration between people of different coloured skin. The closest interaction we would see is when the white person standing behind the bar in a brasserie would tell the black or Indian chef what to cook. It is also not possible to walk 300m down the street without coming across a poor beggar usually from Eastern Europe, and that is not an exaggeration. Besides that negative aspect, France was a lot of fun, I especially enjoyed not having to communicate with anyone and watching Sheena really earn our pastry goods from the boulanger who probably could speak perfect English but just didn’t want to… typical French :p

Crepes, Rose & Buskers in the Marais

The view from our room in Paris

More robot dancing...

Some random structure

Sheena looking French

London was like London always is, and our time was spent catching up with friends and family and watching a lot of football, drinking a lot of cider. It was really nice to spend some time with my sister Katherine and my Uncle David whom we met in Oxford. A special thanks to Geoff and Amanda for keeping us in their house for what was I’m sure a lot longer than what they expected!

Geoff reconsidering his idea of watching
Australia play Germany in a German Pub...

I just like this photo for some reason - East London

Glastonbury was surprisingly stinking hot, but at least the rain stayed away for the entire 5 days! Unheard of! Of course we had a great time, with the Flaming Lips being my highlight… mind blowing! However Glastonbury tends to throw up some more crazy stuff, such as, I dunno… flaming towers crawling with contortionists surrounded by men with lazer whips and dudes with electric tesla sparks coming out of their heads… you know, the usual..

Late night fun at Glastonbury!

So now we’re in Sardinia lying on the beach… I’ll save that for another blog, but that will pretty much be it anyway…

Hope it hasn’t been too long!


Simon and Sheena

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