Back to the Motherland

I was very excited about the next leg of my journey as I was going to be seeing friends (old and new), and family.

Glasgow


My first stop was Glasgow, the former home of a genius in the world of art and architecture, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. My two days were spent doing a little relaxing (and laundry), visiting art galleries (including falling asleep in one), hitting up charity stores in Byres Road for ball attire and meeting up with Chris (a language assistant I met in France) while listening to some live music. Glasgow was an unexpected treat!

Edinburgh


Next was Edinburgh, I spent some time with Dom, another language assistant from France. As well as catching up with her, I did all he touristy stuff around the city including a couple of museums, the castle, viewed Holyroodhouse from the outside and a walk up to Holyrood Park for a lovely view of the city. I also found myself in the middle of a gay pride parade, surprisingly not the first time I’ve ended up in one unintentionally!

Harewood House


On to Yorkshire where I got to spend a couple of days with family and visit Harewood house (a stately home, the Queen’s cousin lives here). I also visited Luke (ANOTHER language assistant in Doncaster and we had a day trip to York where I stayed with Liz for a night.

York


This weekend I’ll be in Oxford for an event but since my posts have been getting long lately I’ll end this one here and fill you in next time.

Amanda xx

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Things get a little crazy in Ireland

My first stop in Ireland was three nights in Dublin. What a wonderful place! My first days were spent visiting cathedrals, museums, Trinity College and drinking far too much Guinness! I visited the Guinness Storehouse which I heard one man describe as an alcoholic’s Disneyland. 

Temple Bar, Dublin


After recovering from an almighty hangover I was off to Kilkenny, ‘the marble city’. I ate some Lebanese food while sitting in the gardens of the Castle. Also to explore were many churches and I climbed a tower at one church for a lovely view of the city.

Kilkenny Castle


On to Cork where I stayed at a bar & hostel run by a guy from Dunedin who came for a visit six years ago and never left. 10% discount on the room for being a Kiwi and 10% discount at the bar influenced my opinions of Cork. I can see why they call it ‘Ireland’s Real Capital’.

Blarney Castle


An easy morning trip to Blarney castle to kiss the fabled stone to get the ‘gift of the gab’. The whole grounds of the castle were great to explore, a highlight being the ‘poisonous garden’ with a variety of dangerous plants including marijuana and opium.

Dingle Peninsula


I spent Saturday night in Killarney which was the night of the French Top 14 final, ASM (my team) vs Paris. Unfortunately we lost, but I met some French guys from Toulouse at the pub and crashed a 21st birthday party.

Dingle Peninsula


I was in Killarney for one reason, to take a day trip of the Dingle peninsula. The whole area has incredible scenery! I can’t sum it up in words! Think castles by the sea, windswept beaches, rolling hills and mountains. Our guide and the others on the tour were awesome and it was a great day out.

Cliffs of Moher


Galway was really hyped up by everyone, and honestly I preferred Cork, but I had a great time anyways and used it as a base for a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher with a detour through The Burren. The Cliffs are really incredible, 200m high and a world heritage site. The Burren is essentially hills of limestone cracked and eroded over time to make it look like rocks, we also stopped at a 5000 year old tomb.

After one more night out in Dublin I was on my early morning, £9 flight to Scotland.

Until next time,

Amanda xx

Germany, England and goodbye.

After Switzerland things were winding down for my parents trip as they had only a few more days until flying back to NZ. 

The view of Lake Constance from the train between Zürich and Münich


We took the train to Münich where we spent three relatively relaxing days there, the major item on the agenda being beer!

The grounds of Schloss Nymphenburg, Münich

We explored the city, accidentally saw some nudists in the park, saw surfing on a river, a strange exhibit, a palace (Schloss Nymphenburg), the BMW museum and Olympic park.

The highlight for me was drinking 1L beers (only €8), at the Hofbrauhaus. There was people in traditional dress and traditional music.

I also had a chance to meet up with my old flatmate from NZ which was great!

Next we headed back to London for mum and dad to catch their flight. We had one day left to go to the British Museum, eat fish and chips and go to an excellent West End musical (The Commitments).

It was a sad goodbye but only for three months this time, not eight like last time.

Manchester


I spent the night with Clare in Oxford then jumped on the train to Manchester for the weekend with some lovely ladies I met in Budapest in February.
We saw all the sights, the Science and Industry Museum, Imperial War Museum, Lowry Museum, A beautiful library, ate far too much Turkish food in a restaurant styled like you’d imagine an elderly Turkish woman’s lounge room, walked in a beautiful botanical gardens, saw a movie (finally an English speaking country!), tried to find a ball gown for me (more next post), and helped Tracey flip a mattress. It certainly was a jam packed weekend!

Next I was off to Ireland, read about that in my next post.

Amanda xx

Switzerland, Wow!

Switzerland was incredibly everything; incredibly beautiful, incredibly expensive, and incredibly lovely people.

Interlaken


We arrived into Interlaken by train from Italy, a lovely trip past lakes, through mountain passes and a giant tunnel covering half of the southern part of Switzerland.

Interlaken is a picture perfect town, the weather was great, our hotel couldn’t have been cuter and the city drinking fountains all featured beautiful glacial water. 

We had one very full day of incredible sights in the Jungfrau region. We took two trains and a cable car up to Mürren, a storybook alpine town, from here we had excellent views of the there large peaks in the region; the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau (the Ogre, Monk and Virgin).

Mürren


Later in the day after exploring Launterbrunnen, we started our journey to Jungfraujoch, the highest train station in Europe. Built in the early 20th century, it was a great feat of engineering and man power when built. (A random fact, the company building the railway offered a reward to the party of men who were the ones to burst through to the top of the mountain. This incentive resulted in one group using more dynamite than they were supposed to and blowing through to the outside a bit too spectacularly!) The train journey up was nearly two hours because the incline was quite steep and we made several stops to change trains. Dad started feeling a little altitude sickness as we climbed. The last section of the journey is mostly inside the mountains with several stops to look at the view out “train station” windows (big caves carved out of the rock). The views of be north face of the Eiger were stunning. The view from the top was simply incredible! Once in a lifetime experience for sure. You could see the summits of the mountains and the giant glacier behind them. Words can simply not do it justice!

Launterbrunnen


While on the top I fed some hungry birds out of the palm of my hand and they ate some of dad’s apple. How they survive so far up, I don’t know. 

Jungfraujoch


The next day we headed to Zürich. We wandered the city and had lunch in a lovely park. It would have been more lovely if I hadn’t split the dressing for my salad all over my shorts and down my leg.

Zürich


Our quick jaunt through Switzerland was over and the next day we headed on to Münich.

Amanda xx

Italy for two weeks

Roman Forum, Rome


Our next destination on the trip was to Italy for two weeks. Rome was the first stop. Here the warm weather continued and we wondered how anyone could deal with traveling there in the middle of summer. We visited all the usual sights with my highlights being the Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum. Rome really has an incredible amount of history.

Rome


We also made a day trip to Pompeii and Erclano/Herculaneum. This was an incredible experience! So amazing that these cities are not too far from what we have today in terms of modern luxuries like running water. It was very worthwhile going to both ruins as Erclano is much smaller and better preserved and shows you what Pompeii could look like when ‘complete’. Only 2/3rds of the town of Pompeii has been excavated due to the large size of the place and the issues in keeping that well protected from an archeological perspective. 

Ercolano, Naples


After Rome we headed to Florence to pick up the rental car. We had a week booked in a house in Tuscany for a bit of relaxation. We still made trips to Pisa (to see the leaning tower), the seaside, Florence, Siena, San Gimignano (‘Medieval Manhattan’) and the town near us, Vinci (where Leonardo da Vinci was born). While I throughly enjoyed the whole week, Florence was definitely a highlight. I really enjoyed wandering the city and looking at all the amazing sights.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa


Unfortunately our luck with the weather had caught up with us and we had a rainy few days and it wasn’t as hot as it had been so only mum was game enough to go for a dip in the pool.

Florence


Another side trip we made from Tuscany was to the Cinque Terre. This is a beautiful section of the Italian Riviera with five fishing towns spread along the rugged coastline. There are numerous walking trails between the towns and train stations connecting them. We walked some (well, climbed a huge hill) for some great views and took the train for other parts. We visited four of the towns during the day, with our mutual favourite being Vernazza, absolutely stunning! Some fresh seafood and a beer were very welcome in the last town.

Vernazza, Cinque Terre


It was my turn to drive in Florence, I dropped the car back to the rental office and we took the train to Venice. What an amazing place! We got a pass for the vaporetto (small ferries for public transport) and made the most of this taking trips all around the Island, down the Grand Canal and to the island of Murano. It was great wandering the back streets (or canals) and losing the tourists for a more authentic view of what living there is like for the locals. We only had one night there and that was plenty. I was starting to get a case of ‘Island fever’.

Venice


Our last stop in Italy was Milan. We decided to get the train from here to Switzerland so we had a day visiting the city. Milan may split people as whether they like it or not but I really loved it. It’s a much more sleek city than Rome and I really liked the cosmopolitan feel. This felt like a city where people actually lived and went about their lives and in some places we struggled with being understood or finding an English speaker. The cathedral is amazing and reminded me of the York Minster. We also enjoyed walking along the Galleria off the main square and visiting the theatre, very lavish. Outside two models were staring in a commercial with a fancy Porsche and another model was having photos taken of her in a winter coat on a balcony. We could definitely tell this is the fashion capital of Italy.

Tuscany


I was quite sad to leave Italy as we sped off on the train to Switzerland, but some great experiences were coming for me in Switzerland. I’ll write about those next time.

Amanda xx