Kraków & Auschwitz

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Our memories are growing increasing fuzzy as we cast our minds back upon our past sojourns. This instalment is from February 2012 when we visited the unique Polish city of Krakow (pronounced Kra-koff as we soon found out!). We were not alone on these ventures – at the time Tim & Shelley had just moved to London and were living with us so they jumped on board. We introduced them to the beauties (and terrors) of Ryanair, armed ourselves with Polish Zloty’s and took flight!

It still never ceases to amaze me how I can be working one day, and that evening be pulling my suitcase over the bumpy cobblestones down the back alley of some european city. That was our story again as we navigated our way from the bus station in the freezing cold to yet another airbnb win. God Bless google maps. Our apartment was in some old communist block with high ceilings and creaky doors. In what was my favourite local greeting (to date), a man who must have been about 70 ushered us inside, complete in a long coat and top hat. Of course he didn’t speak a word of english so he proceeded to show us the ‘features’ of the flat grunting and pointing with much enthusiasm. The next morning he brought us fresh pastries (in his top hat again)… what a legend! Continue reading “Kraków & Auschwitz”

Barcelona

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I am ashamed and horrified to admit that it has been almost one entire year since our last blog post! So much so, that it has taken me the better part of an hour to work out the new settings on WordPress so that I could actually start typing this! London life is pleasantly busy, but I think the reason our blog is lagging is because of the sheer volume of photos to sort through. This is a first-world problem that I avoid a) because it’s time consuming b) it drives home the reality that the trip, is in fact, over! The beauty of photos is that vivid memories come racing back to you, and for this I am incredibly grateful, but also terrified of the longing that creeps back in my heart to head straight to Heathrow for the next adventure. Despite the absence of travel blogging, I hope that you have been enjoying our more current photos on Instagram/Facebook which is a quick and easy way of sharing snapshots of our travels.

People often email me to ask how we afford to travel so much. The answer to that is because we prioritise it. We make sacrifices in our day-to-day lives to ensure that money is available for travel, and we have become experts on traveling cheap and booking in advance! Joel has a crazy amount of school holidays, and with my overtime, we have so far managed to squeeze a trip in each break. This is an art (and a discipline that I have become very good at), much to Joel’s bemusement. We have not even started one trip before I am booking the next, and poor Joel has spent many exhausted nights on the Easyjet, Ryanair and Airbnb websites trying to find the best flights and accommodation!

We actually visited the vibrant city of Barcelona in October 2011 so I am stretching the elasticity of my brain a little with this one….here goes! Continue reading “Barcelona”

Nice & Monaco

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Up until I moved to Europe I literally thought this vibrant seaside city was called ‘Nice’ (as in ‘that’s a nice blouse’). For anybody still in that camp, be warned, do not say that out loud, at least not when you are in France! You can use it to describe the capital of the Cote d’Azur i.e. Nice was nice – but stop there 🙂

I had low expectations of Nice, in fact it featured in the itinerary mainly as a base to fly back to London. I didn’t even bother myself trying to find accommodation and delegated that to Joel (who aced it by the way). I anticipated the beach to be rammed, the water to be murky and the city to be gritty. I need to apologise to Nice – you are none of those things. In fact, you are distinctly cosmopolitan, yet retain that beachside charm. You are full of sights which delight the senses and smells which thrill the appetite. The only thing I did not like about you was trying to navigate the maze of streets in order to drop off the rental car, something even a local might struggle with! Continue reading “Nice & Monaco”

The Côte d’Azur

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Often known as the French Riviera, you may associate this area with ritzy yachts, glamour, Cannes film festival, celebrities in Saint Tropez…. and you would be right. However the Cote d’Azur (or Azure Coast) has more to offer than it’s rather pretentious reputation would at first glance reveal.

Determined to avoid at all costs the unimaginable wealth and on the other hand tacky tourist packages, I had a fight on my hands. Firstly no holiday accommodation will entertain the thought of renting to you for any less than a week in August, and the undeniable popularity of the Cote d’Azure has meant that the prices charged are almost offensive for the quality of lodgings offered. If you are looking for something that screams ‘French’, look again.

Or look at Bormes-les-Mimosas. Continue reading “The Côte d’Azur”

Provence – Avignon, Mt Ventoux & Canyon du Verdon

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The problem with Provence is that it would take months to adequately take in the key sights. So you can imagine with only six days available to you, you are grinding your knuckles as casualties are sacrificed off your list. One such sacrifice we were not prepared to make was a daytrip to Avignon and the mighty Pont du Gard.

I did not realise that Avignon was a walled city and being a lover of walled cities, hence I was delighted as we navigated our car through one of the many city gates. The city was surprisingly compact and a treat for the senses with an abundance of leafy trees lining the sidewalks, cafes spilling out with people enjoying a midday wine and a soaring Cathedral reminiscent of something that should be perched in the mountains (maybe Hogwarts?!). We meandered around taking in the expansive squares, and gazed out at the remains of the Saint-Bénezet bridge, also known as Pont d’Avignon. It was only the heat that drove us to our next destination as I could easily pass the time in one of the many cafes hidden amongst the sprawling cobblestone streets. Continue reading “Provence – Avignon, Mt Ventoux & Canyon du Verdon”

Provence, the Lubéron

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When it comes to Provence, I am generally speechless. A google search of “how would you describe Provence?” yielded no results. Therefore I am left alone in this unchartered territory….

How do you describe string after string of hilltop villages forged from stone, perched in calm serenity, wrapped in rose bushes so delightful even the sunflowers dance in appreciation? How can you convey a quaintness of centuries past, battles fought and won, castles whispering you their secrets whilst vines climb amongst the ruins, reclaiming their ground? How can you explain the scents of fresh crispy bread from the village’s only bakery, the crisp acidity emerging from the fruit on display every morning in markets across the valley’s, the wafts of harvested lavender drifting across the fields? How can you forget the sound of little feet pittering and pattering barefoot across the cobblestone, the laughter of the local butcher, ‘oui, merci’, insects chirping in the warmth of the dusk, the falling of olive leaves in the slight breeze, or the trickling of an underwater spring giving life to the village?

This is the mystery and delightful pleasure that is Provence.

It is a place you simply have to see for yourself, however I will use the words available to me to give you a tour of this not-so-well-kept-secret. Continue reading “Provence, the Lubéron”

Paris, le deuxième tour

It has to be done!As the title suggests, this was our second time travelling to the magnificence that is Paris. This time, we were doubly filled with anticipation, as we were due to meet Joel’s parents Geoff and Marjorie in the city of dreams. It had been a year and a half since Joel had been in their company, and what better place to catch up on all that had transpired since the move to Europe that in one of the gems of her crown!

So thus we found ourselves ringing the oh-so-french doorbell of a second floor Parisian apartment in our favourite area of Paris – Saint Germain des Pres. We were greeted by a weary but joyful “Bonjour!” from Geoff & Marjorie. Tight hugs lasted but a minute before I was dragging the cohort down by the Siene to Pont Neuf along with the locals to watch the sun set over the Pont des Arts, with picnic in hand. I have to admit I felt slightly hypocritical given that our picnic was purchased over the channel, but time was of the essence and as everyone who knows me well will tell you – I cannot miss a good sunset. This one did not disappoint, we watched the pink and red hues light up the sky, silhouetting the clusters of likeminded young people along Pont Neuf, clinking wine glasses and whiling the balmy night away to the tune of their guitars. Continue reading “Paris, le deuxième tour”

London Olympics

London 2012 OlympicsI still remember the headline of the Metro the morning of Friday 27th July. My eyes filled with the first round of sentimental tears as a red bus rumbled by in the background (just to make the experience a little more authentic). It proclaimed, “Good Morning World, Welcome to Our City, and Your Olympics”. Maybe it was the first time I considered London “my” city. By the end of the Games it certainly was.

I think it is safe to say that every single Londoner, was, for a brief two weeks, caught up in the olympic spirit (before a swift return to the staple moaning and groaning). The papers were scathing about the Olympic Games, the Transport For London posters were menacing with their warnings, and it was safe to say that at least every second person considered vacating the city for the Games. Those who stayed (most people: empty threats), were given a treat. Weeks full of summer street parties, miles of bunting, hundreds of thousands of British flags, and a unified pride for Team GB characterised the city, and there were smiles on the face of every otherwise-miserable-sod! Continue reading “London Olympics”

Paris

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We figured that we’d better make the trip across the canal to the ‘City of Love’ at some point. After all, it is only two hours on the Eurostar and we didn’t want to be called ‘lackadaisical’… So after work one friday we found ourselves on the platform, being whisked away for the weekend to another of Europe’s treasures.

I had not taken the chance to brush up on the key french phrases, so I felt unarmed and vulnerable in a city which I had heard did not take kindly to ignorant tourists. My fall back plan was to just start sprouting ‘g’day’ if all else failed so the citizens of France would take pity on this poor flailing Aussie who was clearly out of her depth! However, I needn’t have worried as we had planned to meet the delightful Emma Froggatt the next day who was studying at the Sorbonne in Paris. She acted as tour guide and interpreter extraordinaire – move over Frommers, make way for Froggatts!

Night one in Paris was characterised by crepes, berets, a lovely Brasserie called ‘La Bullion Chartier’, a thousand and one cafes spilling on to the sidewalk, and grand sweeping boulevards. I enjoyed the sophistication of the French language and commiserated that I was such a bogan with no class or style. Paris is broken up in to 20 arrondissements (areas), of which I could find no rhyme or reason, and was later informed by Miss Froggatt that they spiral outwards like an escargot (see what I did there?!). Anyway, I had little idea where I was at any given time so this knowledge unfortunately went to waste.

Continue reading “Paris”

Bath

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If you know either mum or I well, you would know that regardless of having just returned to the UK from a truly ‘epic’ European adventure, this would not dampen our urge to do it all over again! With mum still having a week before she flew home, we decided to nip off to the historic English town of Bath for a few nights. Joel was exhausted from our jaunts around Eastern Europe and slightly bewildered that we were ready to get back in the saddle, so he opted to stay in London (hence he does not appear in the photos!).

Mum and I packed up our overnight bags and set off to this ever-so-cute Roman town, nestled in the English countryside amongst rolling green hills. After checking into our little room with an over-enthusiastic host, we set about exploring the ancient cobblestoned streets, finding something delightful at every turn. Sweet little cafes hid down well worn lanes, boutique clothing shops beckoned us in with their temptations, and we already felt in the ‘roman’ spirit before we reached the famed Roman Baths. As you probably guessed, Bath isn’t called Bath for no reason, and we were about to discover why… Continue reading “Bath”