Saturday, July 31, 2010

Travel Photos

For those that are interested, Repton put his travel photos up here for our edification and education.

(See, no mandatory slideshows or anything.)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I'm on my way

From misery to happiness todaaaaay, uh huh, uh huh, uh huh...

Actually, this has been a really good trip, although I am in bouncy halfway home mode at Singapore Airport. Have had limited internet access this past several days, so the short version is we went to Manchester to visit Repton's Gran, aunt and uncle, who all turnd out to be both lovely, and really interesting. (1) We also lit out for a day to Windermere, one of the town's in the Lake District, because I felt like it (had to talk Repton into it, and really glad I did.)

Repton is currently collapsed in a heap at the gate looking interestingly pale, either from air sickness or a stomach bug, and I'm about to go back and deliver some anti-nausea meds [fingers crossed]. (2) I did some wigging out on the day of our flights (in the evening so we did some wandering around shoe shopping first, and Central London on a Saturday afternoon is an intimidating experience, not to mention the airport) but am now feeling perfectly fine if a little spacey, which I guess is the difference for me between a bit tired and wading through noisy noisome crowds, and a lot tired but quiet and calm. Each to their own I guess.

Anyway, off to the gate! See y'all soon.

(1) I'm still in Public Transport Envy mode, mind. When we got train tickets they said "Just take any train, they leave every twenty minutes. It'll take a couple of hours or so." To Manchester.
(2) Interestingly, I get a little bit sick often, but hardly ever very badly. Repton is healthy as a horse until he's sick as a dog, and unfortunately right now it's the latter. Hopefully he'll be feeling somewhat better by the time I get back.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

London's Burning...

Actually, London's pretty neat, although this feels like the epitome of the flying visit - we've been doing a certain amount of wandering around looking at famous things from the outside, then going into a few Really Neat places and enjoying them in more depth. The highlight today was visiting the British Museum with a friend from Auckland whom I hadn't seen in a couple of years in spite of, you know, living on the same island and all. We're in the Friends and Family Zone with a vengeance - there was a family reunion for my dad's side of the family on Sunday, and John is seething with relatives (all nice.) Tomorrow we go to Manchester for a few days (and more relatives.) Hope to get to visit the Lake District on a day trip, as well, perhaps. (Short post, internet on a timer.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Arrived in London

We've made it to London, and are staying for the next couple of days with my cousin Jot, who is as warm and kindly as I remember, and in very short order we were gossiping about family as if we hadn't seen each other for a couple of months, instead of the seven years it's actually been.

We're in Islington right now. I'm being a total geek, and every time I see a place name on the tube map I keep thinking of one of the characters or horrors in Neverwhere. Eh well.

It's also a good 10 degrees cooler than on the continent, which means that I can wear long trousers again and go for a walk at a reasonable speed without risking an asthma attack, both of which I've missed. (It's very frustrating when you want to go out and have an uncomplicated good time finding out about the new exciting place, except it's physically exhausting just getting from A to B, and that's before you've even started looking at stuff.) Anyway, I suddenly have bounce, vigour and vim, and feel like I've ended the 'being cultural' part of my holiday and can move onto the 'relaxing and seeing what happens part'. Today, we're off to a family reunion with a bunch of Sells (relatives through my greatgrandmother on my father's side.) We shall be the Distant Cousins From The Southern Hemisphere. Will let people know how it goes.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Last full day in Berlin

Found a swimming pool. It was lovely.

London ho!

Friday, July 16, 2010

In Berlin

Iäm quite liking it here - the city has a very open architecture and layout, vast areas of greenspace, and the people seem pretty laidback and friendly. There have been complete strangers who smiled at me or started conversations who weren't even other tourists! (Or shopkeepers.) I'm glad I visited Prague, but Repton's comment to some other frisbee people we happened to run into that it was 'impressive but also oppressive' strikes me as pretty valid.

This place also Does public transport underground train lines, overground train lines, trams, buses, and they#re also pretty friendly to cyclists. And dogs. Iäve seen a whole bunch of dogs around, always on leads or close control of their owner, and they go on trains and buses and bicycles (the latter in carry baskets) just like anyone else. (In Prague, too - one theatre we went to had a sign saying that dogs were welcome to come into the auditorium.) Iäve yet to see a single solitary live cat that wasnät on a poster or a pottery mug - I assume they#re liked, or they wouldnät show up in advertising, but only as apartment pets, maybe?

Itäs still Hot, although a bit easier to catch a breeze. I got my first sunburn yesterday on a bike tour despite three applications of sunscreen, because I just kept sweating it off. Today has felt a bit easier, although that may have been because we went out to Potsdam, a smaller nearby and highly decorative town that used to be chocful of 'royal residences# and we hung out on a boat tour and the truely enormous park of the Sanssouci palace. My current goal is to find a swimming pool that is open in the evening and nearby, and hopefully wonät do that nude bathing thing (first place I checked, does, and Iäm shy.)

Apologies for the horrid typing, am using a European keyboard and some of the keys arenät where I expect them and messing with mz touch typing.

Take care,


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Moving on

It's Tuesday morning (Tuesday I think?) and we're about to move on. It's been a good visit, except for the stinking hot bit (Mad Dogs and Englishmen have nothing on it - walking home from the supermarket yesterday at 6.30pm felt like being hit by a brick.) Repton's pretty glad to move, he says he has language fatigue and figures he'll feel a bit better in Germany where at least he's studied the language some.

It's been pretty interesting to be here. I mean, there's stuff that's supposed to be the Official Tourist Experience, both the putting the city's best foot forward like going off to look at important buildings, and concerts as 'cultural experiences', and being shown places that were significant to famous people that lived in the city, and then there's the worst foot, like being a target for pickpockets and sellers of smutty playing cards (hasn't been a problem, actually, but was in Athens), but there's also the experience of just being in a different city and seeing the way things are different, like the buses and trams always start with a terrific jerk and you never talk to the driver (they're actually in a little cabinet with a door to further discourage importunate tourists), and the way the tap water tastes really good, and the standard font on official signs is a bit different - not Arial, but a slightly wider sans serif font, and that the street signs are plaques on buildings and never have an equivalency for "St", it's always things like "Melanouva 2".

Anyway, we have to go get on our train soon. Looking forward to the scenery, but also being able to put my feet up for 5 hours. :-)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Beginning of Day 4

Day 4 since I started travelling, I mean. So far it's been two very loooooong days (from around 6.30am to around midnight, and that's before you count the timestretch from switching time zones), one night of intermittent sleep, and a day and a night that were rather more reasonable, sleepwise. Despite that, since I've gotten here I've been waking up about 5.30am when the morning light starts seeping in around the curtains - yesterday I was able to get back to sleep and conked out until 9.30, but today that just isn't gonna happen. (I think this means I've adjusted timezones. Yay!)

Fun with Trams
Prague really does public transport. The most common building type is 5-6 story tenements that may cover an entire block, and the population density means that it's very cost effective to put on a lot of public options (trams and buses and three metro lines.) You're supposed to buy a transport ticket and validate it when you first get on the bus or tram or whatever, but this is not very well signposted for Us Crazy Foreigners, which is paired with a non-trivial number of locals who do not like to talk to strangers - the conversation "Can I buy a ticket from you?"/"No."/"Where can I buy a ticket?"/"I don't know" is one I've heard several times between a tram driver and a hapless tourist. I've also met some very lovely and patient people, just that there's been a certain amount of reactions ranging from a bit panicked, disdainful, or stolidly answering the question as asked and moving on without volunteering any further information. I don't think people are hostile, exactly, just very very self contained. This kind of marries with the way the buildings are set up - our hotel is part of a big quadrangle built around the block with an interior courtyard, which I think is very common in the Old Town (with lots of frilly decoration). The newer buildings tend to be very stark orthorhomboids, and graffiti at ground level is very common, but you'll often see some very beautifully manicured parks and gardens, at least some of which belong to specific buildings, and the balcony gardens and window boxes I've seen are absolutely gorgeous. So, yeah, I think it's very much a city of people minding their own business. It's also a lot emptier than I would have expected, there's lots of room on the streets to walk around, and usually room in the buses, which makes me wonder if a lot of people have taken off on their summer holidays. Also, despite occasionally seeing signs warning about pickpockets, this place doesn't set off any of the threat triggers I got in places like Athens or even Market St in San Francisco. (In Joburg, I wasn't actually allowed out of the family house we were staying at without an escort, so we won't even use it as an example.) As a f'r'instance, the day before yesterday we came home around midnight and got off at the wrong stop so did a fair amount of walking to get home - on Friday night in the old town, there were people out and about but they were almost all inside cafes and restaurants - no drunks, no people spilling out of bars, no people that you think you should really keep your distance from.

On Tourism
For the last couple of days we've basically been doing wind up of the tournament stuff. After I left the hotel on my first day I went off to find Repton at his tournament ground (lots of getting lost on trams for which I blame jetlag) and hung around with his mates, and walked through a green park, and then we went to this big End of Tournament party. Sadly, I just missed Repton's final game (they won, and came 17th in their category). The party was very full on, with a boat ride on the river - twas nice, although I was too tired to get the most out of it, I think. Yesterday we went and watched the final games for each category (some scarily athletic people, my yes) and did good byes with Repton's team, and today the official tourism bit starts. :-)

(Reading back through this post, it's a bit jumbled, but oh well. Take care, all.)

Friday, July 09, 2010

Arrived in Prague

But feeling very weary and a bit spacy. Looking forward to getting into my room (not available for another three hours) and really hoping my luggage turns up today (checked in bag has been mislaid.) Am feeling philosophical about it. Am going to venture out to lunch and maybe see if I can find the stadium that John is at this afternoon.

It is very hot (about 30 degrees) and doesn't have nearly as many people wandering around the streets than I would have expected - maybe people have cleared out for their summer holidays? The bits of the city I've seen from the taxi were interesting - a big jumbled up mix of old, frilly buildings that are kind of rundown, smushed up against more modern and better kept architecture, but it's not like they have zones where it's one way or the other, it's all just mixed together. And the people here are very fond of green tree-filled parks, which looks like a pleasing attitude to have.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

First leg done...

Have made it to Singapore - very long day, am deliberately ignoring the time in New Zealand because I figure it will make it a bit harder to switch time zones. Is now 7.30pm, and have to stay up until 11.30 to catch next plane, hopefully will be tuckered about and able to sleep by the time I get on it. Heard rumours about a rooftop pool, but haven't managed to see any signs yet - may be in different terminal. Have that very hazy feeling you get from being up too late, with no intention of going to bed anytime soon - onward to the shower! (Have I ever mentioned that I really like Changhi Airport?)

Up, up and away!

Am off to go travelling. Huzzah!