A Travellerspoint blog

Lofoten Islands

Feb 14th to 17th

semi-overcast -1 °C
View 2013 on Claire.Miller's travel map.

A bit of a crazy start to the Lofoten Islands. There was a slight mix up with the planes. My mother and Melanie had booked at the same time as me but on a different booking number as I was able to get a special youth rate. Their planes were changed and so I assumed that mine were also. I assumed wrong. Turns out I was on the original plane which left an hour earlier, so exactly when we arrived at the airport. I went to check in as I couldn't get the machine to work and she told me that I was on the plane that was about to leave. Luckily it was slightly delayed so I pretty much ran to the gate, losing my mother's old swiss army knife through security in the process, and managed to quickly jump on the plane. I was also lucky as we had managed to catch the bus before the one we planned as it was running late, and that the lady at check in let my mother check in my bag under her ticket.

So I run onto this plane and it is the smallest plane I have ever seen, maybe only 30 people would fit on there. There were no assigned seating but the lady said to sit up the back so I sat in the back row which was a straight seat across like in the back of a bus. I actually ended up sitting next to a guy who worked in medical research in Tromsø so I learnt a couple of things about Norway and his research on the whole half an hour plane trip. Apparently Tromsø has a big university and is the cancer and heart centre of Norway's northern regions. He himself was working on recreating cells to heal people who have lost the cartilige in their knees, he tried to explain the whole process to me about growing the new cells and the large amount of trial and error involved. It was fairly complex for like 8.30, 9 in the morning, but it was quite interesting to talk to him. He also gave me a definition of a fjord, which I had wondered about as I was unsure about the exact classification. However later Melanie said she thought his definition was wrong so who knows, maybe he had made everything up! Cool thing was though, the plane company gives you a chocolate at the end of the flight.

But continuing on with the plane story. So after this half an hour of plane ride I arrived in Stockmarknes. I had an hour or so to wait so I wandered around to the check in/security area, so the other room of the airport, and I say airport in the loosest sense of the word, more like glorified shed. When I get there the security lady asks me if I am meant to be on the plane that is about to leave. I tell her that I am actually on the later plane to Stockmarknes. Unfortunately however that plane route got cancelled in January. So they chuck me back on the exact same plane, again I have to race my things through security. Unfortunately in my rush the first time I had just ditched all my liquids out and back in to my bag so they weren't in a plastic pouch which would have been simple, instead I had to dig around for them. So I get back on the same plane with the same flight attendant, who found it quite funny. Unfortunately the plane is full so I take the last seat which js actually a flight attendant seat. 30 minutes later and I am in Bodo, exactly where mother and Melanie arrived, I believe actually after me, after having to only take 1 flight. And just because I hadn't failed enough for the day I managed to fail at getting off the plane. As I was in the flight attendant seat my hand luggage had to be put away further down the plane. This meant I had to wait for everyone to get off before I could get it and leave. So by this time everyone except these people with a man in a wheelchair had disappeared. So I followed them, I swear, halfway around the airport on the tarmac until they went in a special entrance. I was like, ok I better say something, so I was like excuse me are you going in? They found it quite amusing and let me catch the lift up and pointed the way to the terminal. Rather embarrasing... I did realise I was wrong halfway through the walking on the tarmac bit but by that point the place was empty and I was committed.

So I talked to the people at the desk and explained the situation and luckily there was not too much hassle. They got me a ticket after about 10 or 15 minutes of organising on the next plane to Svolvaer, so the one mother and Melanie were on. This left about half an hour later or so and took about 20 minutes, pretty much back the way I had come, on the same type of small plane as before, although not the exact one again, that would have been quite funny.

In Svolvaer our bags ended up being left in Bodo. Although to be honest this was a blessing as we didn't have to lug them around all day, they brought them right to our accommodation! So that took a bit to sort out and then we thought there was a bus straight from the airport. We thought wrong. Again another shed type situation. So we spent ages trying to work out how to find the number for a taxi and just as Melanie started to call, one rocked up! So we went into Svolvaer for the tourist office and, having an hour to kill, we found a cafe for lunch. This was a massive success. I had a very tasty sandwich and mum tried a Norwegian speciatly of pancake with brown cheese, which she also loved. Then of course a vanilla slice for me for dessert, delicious!

So in the islands we stayed in Ramberg for the first two days and in Svolvaer the last night, as we were flying back out of that airport. This meant most of our time was spent on the bus. However this really wasn't an issue as the main road throigh the island the buses take is a national tourist route and just beautiful. If we had taken a car we would have been stopping every 5 minutes to get out and take a photo. The thing to understand about the Lofoten is at this time of year they are just always stunning. They consist f mountains and hilly terrain covered in snow with lots of sea and cute little fishing villages consisting of red houses, many built half in the water on stilts. And the reason it is so stunning is the light, the whole day the sky looks like the end of dawn, with a beautiful soft pink lighting. Just amazing.

So where we stayed in Ramberg was one of these tiny little villages in a red cabin. The view from our window looked right over a little beach with mountains to the right. Yoi couldn't ask for anything more! Well except a kettle that is. There was a drip coffee machine but no kettle! We ended up having to boil the water in a saucepan and use the coffee pot from the machine as a teapot.

The islands are still bove the arctic circle so we were still hoping to get some lights but unfortunately is wasn't to be the first night. But best thing about this place; all you have to do to look for the lights is go out on the front porch! Dinner that night, and the next were rissoles and veg, which actually tasted pretty good!

So for our first day we went almost to the edge of the islands to a town by the name of Å. And we may have just gone there because of its name. Turns out it is actually quite nice, there is some big fishing museum there. What really attracted my attention though was what I had read about delicious cinnamon scrolls made there daily, but it was all a lie! Unfortunately apart from the museum, which we didn't really have any interest in seeing, the town was dead. This was doubly unfortunate as I was quite starving. So we went back to catch the bus only to miss it, I blame the guy at the museum ticket place/town general store (same place) who had spent half an hour going on at the museum. So we had about half an hour to kill, which actually turned out well as we went for a short work and found a great view to the ocean.

We headed back up the island to Reine, a fishing village. First thing I saw was a very cute looking cafe. It was like a cafe/decorative/some gardening stuff I think store. Anyway it was great. I had pretty much a fancy toasty which was awesome and we came back later to waste time for the bus and I had a chocolate cake. This was good but mum had a chocolate cupcake there for lunch which was loads better so mine kind of paled in comparison. So we went to Reine pretty much because it is a prety typical fishing village, if not smelly at times. I think there was also a bird watching group there so maybe there are exciting birds too. So we spent about an hour wandering around the village and taking lots and lots of photos as well as sinking into the snow alot.

So the second night we had major success withe the lights. We got some really good ones, made better by the water, the other houses and the mountain in the background. Then we all got into bed when mum looked out the window and said we needed to go back out. So out we go in our pjamas and jackets and they were fantastic! I swear there was even some reflection in the water, although the camera didn't pick it up. Mum went back out again later when she swears they were really good but I had looked out the window and they didn't look as great.

The next day we had to get back up to Svolvaer. Unfortunately the buses weren't as well timed as they were on the way down and we had to wait about 2 or 3 hours in Leknes, rather than the 10 minutes it was on the way down. As there was nowhere to leave our bags we took them to a nearby shopping centre and sat at a cafe the whole time. Unfortunately a rather unpleasantly smelling talkative Norwegian, I think mikitary, man was sitting at the table next to us. But fortunately I looked around the shops and found a moose cushion!

That night in Svolvaer we tried to find a restaurant to eat at but apparently they only did Italian food restaurants there so we just had meatballs. Which mum proceeded to eat cold out of a bottle, as in a drink bottle, for the following days... Too many days... Our last night to see lights tonight but it was cloudy so no luck. But not dissapointed as we had definitely seen some good ones so I was very happy!

A quite funny thing happened actually that night. We were staying in a guest house so we had a room with a bunk bed and a single. I was very glad I took the top bunk as Melanie managed so sit on the lower one and break one of the slats. Rather hilarious.

The next morning, quite early, we headed to the airport. Our plane wasn't til late afternoon but the next bus was much later and got there just after our plane left. So that meant we had to catch the early one and wait around in the airport for like 4 or 5 hours. I spent most of the time watching Hart of Dixie, luckily they had wifi there, and IT Crowd with mum. I also managed to fail at getting a cup of tea. I had to ask where the tea bags were and then thought the machine was for hot water when it was actually coffee, so made a coffee tea. Had to be quite embarrassed and tell the lady and try again. Luckily mum came and showed me which machine it was.

Lights in Ramberg

Lights in Ramberg

Lights in Ramberg part 2

Lights in Ramberg part 2

View from our cabin in Ramberg

View from our cabin in Ramberg

View in Lofoten

View in Lofoten

Reflection of light in the water

Reflection of light in the water

Fishing village in Lofoten Islands

Fishing village in Lofoten Islands

Another fishing village

Another fishing village

Fish drying in Å

Fish drying in Å

View from Å

View from Å

View from Å, note the colour of the sky

View from Å, note the colour of the sky

Harbour in Reine

Harbour in Reine

Icicle in Reine

Icicle in Reine

Posted by Claire.Miller 02:27 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Tromso

Feb 10th to 14th

semi-overcast -3 °C
View 2013 on Claire.Miller's travel map.

Tromso was actually quite brilliant, and not only because we saw the aurora borealis twice there! When we got to the hotel (Skansen Hotel) the receptionist was pretty awesome. He got all upset because he didn't realise we were 3 females and we had been given a room with a double and a single. First he found another bed which was really bizarre, it was like a cupboard that folded out into a bed, except that the matress didn't really fit it. He was very keen on use understanding that it was very old and never gets used. It was quite funny. Then we had rearranged the room to fit it he came back and said there was a cancellation and we could get a second room (free). So out went the cupboard bed. Oh and the other thing about the room was the crazy massive spa bath thing! It was ridiculous, like 5 people could have fit in it! Well 5 skinny people anyway. I get the feeling it may have been the honeymoon suite...  

When we went down to have a cup of tea the receptionist mentioned that maybe someone thought the lights would be visible from the city that night. So we raced outside to have a look. It was still quite early though so decided to have something to eat. So people aren't kidding when they say Norway is expensive. The only thing below about 140nok ($24) was burger king, and even that set me back about $15!  

So we found like a football oval or something which seemed to provide a decent view. Kept on seeing things that I think we wanted so badly to be lights that our brains decided they were, i.e. distant mountains in the dark looked like they could be the start of something. It didn't help that we had no idea which direction to look or what time they were likely to happen. We ended up giving up at a bit past 10pm which we later found out was way after they were likely to happen. While we were waiting I kept thinking maybe the guy was playing a joke on us and there was just the Norwegian humour, it would have been pretty funny if it was, well funny now looking back on it that is. While waiting I had decided to go 'cross country', the ground was covered in snow, only to take one step off the path and sink mid calf deep into the snow. I was searching for a bin, but when I decided to try up the top of the park I got put off by the guy standing there making clapping or clicking type noises. Also next to the park was a rather wonky house, thought it should be mentioned, I definitely wouldn't live there.  

Our first day in Tromso mother and I decided to go to the cable car. We decided to walk there, which took about 45 minutes, half of which was crossing a massive bridge and the other half over treacherous icy roads. Then we discovered it was closed for maintenance til May. Rather annoyed. Although the upside was that we got some good views of Tromso from the bridge.  

After a supermarket lunch we headed to a small glass shop and the polaria. The glass shop was cool, had some awesome stuff but a little outside my price range... I also found the Polaria pretty cool  purely for the bearded seals. We got there to catch the endof the seal feeding and trick time. The bearded seals are just brilliant, they look like grumpy old men. And they all did pretty good tricks; jumping up to hit a ball, through a hoop... There was also a movie theatre which showed two videos; one about the northern lights and one about the nordkapp.  

That night we had our northern lights tour of Tromso. This one was a million times better than the one in Reykjavik, because it had sausages, cake, and tea, as well as reindeer skins to sit on and a fire. It was therefore always in the same place so lees chance of seeing them, but we got lucky! Saw some really nice green lights which seemed amazing at the time, but were definitely outdone by the following two times we saw them. Mum was so proud that she was the one to spot them, and didn't let us forget for several days.  

My second day in Tromso did not consist of much.  I had a lazy day and did some shopping. I had success in buying a top and had a nice, if somewhat expensive, sandwich for lunch and that was my day! I tried to go to a gallery but it seemed to be closed. That night was rather misty so we caught the bus somewhat out of town and it got even foggier, so we decided not to bother trying to see the lights and go back. You couldn't even see 10m infront of you, let alone the sky!  

The next morning was dog sledding morning! Woohoo! We had to leave pretty early to head put to the same place we had seen the lights on our tour, same company. After being fitted in our ultra warm, ultra attractive suits we went out to find a team. They actually put all three of us in the one sled and our 'driver' turned out to be an Aussie. Apparently pretty much everyone who works there is international, noone except the owner is actually norwegian. Each person has their own group of dogs, however he was also using some borrowed siberian huskies. The whole time he was saying how the siberian huskies were useless and how much better his dogs were, it was quite funny. At the begininning of the trip there is a lovely smell because when they start out is when all the dogs want to go to the toilet, but it improved after we got going. There was some outstanding scenery along the way. We were across the water from Tromso and had great views of the city and the coast. My only dissapointment was that we didn't go very fast, but I suppose that can be expected as a touristy thing and also because he said the snow was too soft for the dogs to really go for it.  

After we had gone round I went a little crazy in saying hi to the dogs, slightly dog deprived. They are honestly the most beautiful dogs, and, even if he says siberian huskies are useless, they have the most beautiful eyes.   Then we got to meet the puppies. It was honestly a close call for me running away with one.  

The excursion included a traditional lunch in a Sami tent which consisted of a reindeer stew. There were also veg which is apparently not traditional, but makes it taste a lot better. It wasn't terrible but I will be honest and say that I am not about to make the conscious decision to eat it again.  

On our way back to the city we got stuck in a traffic jam. There was I think an accident on the bridge to the island, Tromso is on an island, and there is no other entry point. We ended up sitting there for about an hour, which was made worse by the fact I really needed the toilet!  

That night the weather was a bit better so we caught two buses to get out the city to better see the lights. After not too long we started to see something. This then meant scrambling up a snow covered hill for a better view. Although this was actually good as lots of snow meant that I could just stick the tripod in the ground and get whatever angle easily. The lights were even better than the other night, and I had worked out how to get my camera to take them. They moved and twisted around which looked amazing. There was a lovely view of mountains with the lights above them, we were actually at a small fjord, but the photos were all slightly ruined by the powerlines cutting right through the middle. There was also a very talkative english guy who had the same idea as us and told us his life story as we waited.  

We thought that the buses came half hourly but then the guy was leaving and yelled at us that the next one was actually in an hour. By this time the lights had gone so we made the quick decision that an hour was too long to wait in the cold on the off chance they came back and we should catch the bus. This unfortunately meant a mad rush/slide back down the hill so we didn't miss the bus. I am surprised none of use ended up with broken bones!

View from Tromso across the 'sea'

View from Tromso across the 'sea'

View from the Tromsø Bridge

View from the Tromsø Bridge

View from across the bridge with the Arctic Cathedral on the right

View from across the bridge with the Arctic Cathedral on the right

Monument in Tromso with beautiful light on the mountain (also check out where the bird is in relation to the spear)

Monument in Tromso with beautiful light on the mountain (also check out where the bird is in relation to the spear)

Bearded seal at the Polaria

Bearded seal at the Polaria

Our first real sighting of the aurora borealis

Our first real sighting of the aurora borealis

Truly amazing!

Truly amazing!

Our sledding team

Our sledding team

Me in my attractive outfit and one of our amazing dogs

Me in my attractive outfit and one of our amazing dogs

With a puppy

With a puppy

View out our Sami tent where we had lunch

View out our Sami tent where we had lunch

Tromso's main shopping street

Tromso's main shopping street

A very unreal looking picture of the lights from the third night in Tromso, it's real and unedited I swear

A very unreal looking picture of the lights from the third night in Tromso, it's real and unedited I swear

Posted by Claire.Miller 13:30 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Reykjavik

Feb 5th to 10th

snow 7 °C
View 2013 on Claire.Miller's travel map.

Iceland heralded the arrival of my mother and her friend, Melanie, who would join me for a few weeks. On my way to Iceland I had spent about 4 hours in Copenhagen airport. I stupidly assumed I needed to stay in the international area with its one crappy cafe/convenience store place. Then when my gate number came up I realised it was out of that area and I could have been in the main part the whole time with all its cafes!  

I flew SAS and Icelandair. They were both great as they gave you free tea or coffee. Icelandair also had entertainment systems and I spent the whole 2 and a half hours from Copenhagen to Reykjavik watching Hart of Dixie and becoming addicted to it.  

The trip from the airport to Reykjavik takes a fair while and you get to see a bit of the country. My first impressions of Iceland from this bus trip consisted of ‘white flatness, white flatness, oh look a glacier, white flatness, white flatness, white flatness, oh an a mountain!, more white flatness…'. And then the bus narcolepsy kicked in and I fell asleep.

Arriving in Reykjavik it took me a little to find our apartment, Brattagata Apartment, but when I did it was great! Up some little back alley right near the tourist information, so right in the middle of town but still quiet. It had everything we could need and the lady even had fresh roses to decorate the dining/lounge room.  

As we had a kitchen and I could finally have a home cooked meal I went straight down to the supermarket to buy some meat and sauce. There I ran into the issue of having no idea of what anything meant. I thought that I was buying beef mince and it turned out to be pork instead. I must admit I did think it looked too light a colour for beef. This then of course became the joke of the trip with mother and Melanie who got to Iceland a few hours later, where we were eating ‘bork'. But I did have major success in that I found cinnamon rolls which were pretty damn good for breakfast or snacks or really anything.  

The first day was spent wandering around. We went to the Viking Museum, which was actually quite interesting. It was built around the remains of a Viking house that had been uncovered. Then wandering the main streets of Reykjavik we had a traditional meat soup for lunch. This was ridiculously expensive but really quite amazing. In the cold weather of Iceland it is exactly the kind of food you need. Hot and meaty and hearty. We also saw one of the churches of Reykjavik which quite different to what you would expect. It looks like a massive cement triangular structure and is very simple inside.  

The next day was horse riding. I don't know if people are familiar, but Iceland has a special type of horse which apparently has a fifth gait that no other horse has. This did not really concern me I'll be honest, but it was a really enjoyable ride in some lovely countryside. That and there was a really cute dog to play with, he was obsessed with chasing chunks of ice which meant my hands got frozen. The guy gave me his old horse, Tango, which apparently used to be the fastest horse in Iceland according to him, she was now very old though so not so fast. He kept on talking to her about being good ‘this time' which didn't really make me feel that confident. It was quite funny though as at the beginning she really believed that everyone was going the wrong way and was convinced that we should be taking another route.  

That night we did a northern lights tour. These tours take you to where the lights are most likely to be that night. There was not a huge chance that night and so we only saw the faintest of white streaks in the sky. They were good and said that we could try again for free as that was not enough but unfortunately the weather was bad for the rest of our stay in Reykjavik and so the tour didn't run. But the tickets are valid for two years so if anyone happens to be going to Reykjavik in the next couple of years I can totally hook you up!  

The really annoying thing about that tour though was that we sat outside in the freezing wind on some snow covered hill for about two hours as we were too scared to go sit in the bus or the café there in case we missed it. Not the best of nights but hey, we would have regretted it if we hadn't done it!  

The next day we did a Golden Circle tour. Again this was not the best day of life as I had severely underestimated the level of iciness. I only wore my boots which had absolutely no grip at all and so managed to majorly stack it twice, the first time involved stacking it down the stairs to the Gullfoss waterfall and this was really, really painful and hurt for about a week. Unfortunately though I totally did not get a good enough bruise to do it justice.  

But the tour itself was quite interesting. It started off at one of the geothermal power plants of the area. This was probably my favourite part of the trip, I honestly did not know how advanced Greenland was in the way of renewable! They have a brilliant system for all their electricity and hot water. The only thing is that all the hot water smells like sulfur and every time you have a shower you wonder if it's you or just the water that stinks.  

The tour continued on to see Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir and the national park that exists where the American and European continent's plates meet. The waterfall was lovely, well apart from the pain. The geysirs were really cool actually, I pretty much lost any ability to move or feel my feet because I was standing in the snow in wet shoes for ages waiting for one of the geysirs to go. But managed to see it happen like 4 times which was really cool. It is such an odd area as you have snow and then it is all melted as you get close to the geysir, and then the steam coming from the pools, such a bizarre thing. The annoying thing was that it was drizzling a lot so it was pretty much impossible to get any decent photos because it took about 2 seconds for the lens to get water on it. Particularly with the geysirs as you would have to hold the camera up for a little bit as you waited for it to blow (I am not sure of the verb to use for the geysir shooting up water).  

The national park was good but, I must admit, being pretty much damp, frozen and sore, by this point I was pretty over it. It didn't help that about 50 metres out of the bus was when I managed to stack it again.  

Our last day in Reykjavik I decided to go to the blue lagoon, by myself in the end as no one else was interested. I was so glad I decided to go. I gave myself two hours there before I had to come back in case the lights tour ran, although annoyingly, as I said, in the end it didn't. I so wish that I had gone earlier. I thought when I decided that I wouldn't be able to spend that long by myself just sitting there but it is honestly the most relaxing thing ever. If you ever go to Iceland I would recommend going there and just soaking for a couple of hours, if I had more time I would also have totally got a massage. It was actually really cool though that it was freezing air, it even rained a couple of times. I found the hottest spot in the lagoon and just sat there thinking about nothing. It was also a really cool area, although I must admit that I was slightly disappointed to find out that it actually wasn't a natural phenomenon, but created by an incident at the geothermal plant nearby. But then I sat there and found I didn't care. The other thing I will say if you plan on going there is you need to have no shame!

Boats in Reykjavik

Boats in Reykjavik

View of Reykjavik from the church

View of Reykjavik from the church

The church in Reykjavik

The church in Reykjavik

Scenery at the horse riding

Scenery at the horse riding

Scenery at the horse riding part 2

Scenery at the horse riding part 2

Details of a geysir

Details of a geysir

Geysir for the win, well except for the rain on my lens... but that's just ummm artistic effect... yeah...

Geysir for the win, well except for the rain on my lens... but that's just ummm artistic effect... yeah...

National Park

National Park

Blue lagoon

Blue lagoon

Posted by Claire.Miller 00:55 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

London

Jan 2nd to 5th

semi-overcast 8 °C
View 2013 on Claire.Miller's travel map.

Oh how nice it was to be back in an English speaking country! My only issue with London was how tiny my bathroom was! Honestly I would have been willing to give up space in the main room so that I could use the shower without the entire room getting soaked. The shower curtain had to be twisted and tied back otherwise it hung over the toilet, major fail people, major fail!

But other than that tiny problem (get it, tiny...) I really loved London and definitely need to spend more than two days there! But its ok, I will definitely come back this trip, particularly because it is an easy place to get out of main europe to avoid visa issues!

So the first morning I was like you know what would be awesome, going to see a play. There were loads I wanted to see but the only one on that arvo was the Lion King. Not that I'm compaining as it was downright awesome. Although between buying the tickets and going I had a couple of hours to kill so I firstly got myself a jacket potato! Awesome stuff, nice to have some mild tasting, english, so pretty much Aussie, food. I also wandered through the shops around covent garden. I found a pair of shoes I wanted, but there was only one pair left in my size at another store. So I decided I had time and walked there to get them. Then realised maybe I didn't actually have as much time as I thought so had to do a crazy speed walk, find tube, catch the tube, more speed walking. It was ok though, I made it, no stress!

And as I said, I thougt the show was awesome, although I found the kid playing baby simba annoying, but luckily he became adult simba and he was way better. The costumes in that play were amazing. In particular the way they did the giraffes was really good, with people kind of walking on their hands and feet on stilts. Also, timone and pumba were brilliant, but how could they not be!

By the time I got out it was already getting dark but I decided to walk around and see everything all lit up. I think I managed to see all the main sites of London within about 3 hours. Well everything except Buckingham Palace that is. I just started walking and found myself at Trafalgar Square. So I wandered down to the river and saw the eye. From there it was down to big ben and parliament then across the bridge for better pics. I walked up to to Westminster Abbey and was going to go to the palace but it was actually a fair walk so instead I got the tube and decided to complete the set with the tower bridge and St Peter's Cathedral. By this point I was tired and starved. However, apparently, in that area anyway, everything but expensive looking french restaurants are closed on a Sunday night. As apparently were all the tubes station in that area for the weekend. I think I went into 5 different stations and they were all closed. In the end, out of desperation I ended up getting maccas and then walking all the way back to where I had caught the tube to initially, across London Bridge.

Actually, that was the other annoyance of London. Apparently they are doing all thus maintenance to the line so the circle line, which was the main line to my hotel and stopped everywhere, was closed! Really annoying.

The next day I had all these plans of things to do and failed at most of them. I had to pack that morning as I had a really early plane the next day and no way to get there in time so had booked at an airport hotel. But point of the story is, by packing and finding a station to leave my bag at, I didn't manage to get going til about midday.

So my first stop was Marylebone high streeetnto go shopping, in particular at Cath Kidston. So after going a little crazy there, and having to go back because they forgot to charge me for something, it was lunchtime. Now this was another reason nothing happened today. I ordered a tea and english breakfast at a cafe, can't remember the name, but it seemed very popular. My tea came quite promptly, however they forgot my order. So about 40 minutes later I finally got my food. Then I asked for the bill and they forgot to bring it that as well. Rather infuriating! Ended up taking like an hour and a half to have lunch

I suddenly realised at this point that I was one street over from Baker St. So I went hey, why not, go see the Sherlock Holmes apartment. But when I got there I discovered something horrible. Next to 219 they had put 231 and were pretending 221 was way down the street! But its ok, they couldn't fool me, not with my keen powers of deduction. Obviously Sherlock was just trying to keep a low profile. I saw his game, well played dear sir, well played.

After that shocking discover it was time to put my obvious skill as a detective to the Tower of London and all its puzzles. Unfortunately though they will have to wait til another time for the solution as it was closing in an hour and cost way too much for only an hour. It was quite funny though, I ran into Emily there with her friend, we had planned to meet for dinner. It was crazy that we managed to randomly find each other though.

The afternoon didn't go so well from there. The balcony I wanted to go up to in St Pauls was closed for maintenance, as were most of the areas of the National Gallery I was interested in. Then there was a service on at the Westminster Cathedral and the climb up to see the city was closed as well. So all in all a bit of a failure of an afternoon.

By this point it was just about time to see Emily and her friends. However, right by the station I realised Wicked was playing. Out of curiosity I checked how much tickets were. This was not a great idea as there were some for like £20! How could I say no! Even though I needed to get to the airport that night... So I got myself an airport bus and train ticket, let the hotel know I would be quite late and got myself a ticket.

First though was dinner with Emily and friends. It was really nice to talk to someone I actually knew to be honest. It is crazy how many places they had gotten to in like 2 months! We had a pub dinner, bangers and mash for the win!

Wicked was absolutely awesome as well. Totally worth all the effort I then had to go to. And even though the ticket was way cheaper than Lion King my view was fine (if I had gone much further back in the theatre the Lion King was in the upper level would start blocking the view, glad I went for the pricier ticket there). Unfortunately though I had to leave about 20 minutes early. How is it that when you leave early you always leave right before the audience bursts out laughing! 20 mins actually didn't turn out to be enough though. I just missed the good airport train and the next one took about 15 minutes longer than it should have. Then when I got to the airport they said I was at the wrong terminal for the bus, even though they had told me to go there when I bought the ticket. In the end I managed the last bus and got there at 12am. I felt so sorry for the guy who had obviously just waited up for me at the hotel (airport guesthouse). He was so nice it made me feel bad. That and the room was 50 times better than the one in town, even had a kettle! Too bad 5 hours after arriving I was straight back out the door and back on the bus to the aiport. It was almostnot even worth getting a room, but I suppose any sleep is better than none! And I absolutely do not regret going to see Wicked.

Theatre for the Lion King

Theatre for the Lion King

Trafalgar Square at night

Trafalgar Square at night

I thought the double decker looked really cool here (at Trafalgar Square)

I thought the double decker looked really cool here (at Trafalgar Square)

Big Ben in case you live in a cave and didn't know

Big Ben in case you live in a cave and didn't know

The eye, again just in case you live under a rock and didn't know

The eye, again just in case you live under a rock and didn't know

The view of Big Ben and Parliament from across the bridge.

The view of Big Ben and Parliament from across the bridge.

London from the plane

London from the plane

Posted by Claire.Miller 09:24 Archived in England Comments (1)

Brussels

Jan 31 to Feb 2

rain 8 °C
View 2013 on Claire.Miller's travel map.

So again I sincerely apologise for the lack of blogging. I will hopefully get almost up to date in the next couple of days, well that's the plan as my next stop is seeing Carmen and don't see me getting time to catchup.

So Brussels! Brussels and I didn't really hit it off that well to be honest. Well except for the waffles that is. Arriving after a not very sleep filled bus trip, I found my way to the place I was due to stay in fairly easily, only to find out the guy had double booked. Turns out it was pretty much his aoartment and he only one free room while the website said two. As I was staying for a shorter time that meant that I got to be the one to leave. Except that he hadn't been able to get in touch with the other guy so I waited around to make sure he was coming just in case he didn't show and so I could get the room. To be honest though it did do me well in that I got to wash my clothes while I waited and alsomgot a free lunch. In addition he gave me €20 to cover the excess and I found a place right in the centre of town as opposed to ages out of it. Although I did pay a deposit somtechnically it was only €10 and the room cost me €40 more. But anyway it was a lot more conveniently located thats for sure.  

So by the time I got to the other hotel I was exhausted and over it. I hadn't showered in about 35 hours and had been rained on. So I had a nice hot long shower to recover and did absolutely nothing at all that night which was great.  

The next day my rather tenuous (think that's the rigt word) relationship with the city continued with few improvements. Mainly due to the fact it was a terribly rainy, windy day and so I spent most of it wet and cold. The major success of the day was breakfast which was a sugar waffle at Mokafe. It was honestly the nicest waffle I have ever eaten, it was so light and tasty! Mjaor win there Brussels.  

After walking around the the grand place and mannekin pis and having the rain ruin the whole look of them, as well as the photos, I decided it was probably an inside activity day. So I headed up to Place du Sablon, getting lost multiple times on the way. Saw the cathedral there, nothing spectacular, then headed to the musical instrument museum. I mean hey, why not, something different. I spent a while there trying, mainly trying to find old flutes and odd instruments. Found a Gamelan set for all the Annesleys girls. Brought back some umm... great... memories of music class. Noticed that the saxophone has not got particularly much in the way of ancestors sorry dad. In the museum shop I also found a little mini organ player that played Vie en Rose for you Leesh Beesh but I decided, although it would be funny, I should actually maybe find you something you would like. (In case everyone else is wondering, that song pretty much stalked Alicia when she was here.)  

The top of the museum has a cafe which apparently has good views so I headed up for a cup of tea. Unfortunately the rain meant the views were not that great but hey, the tea was good. Attempted to have a chat with the waiter in French, not really sure how that went as I told him his city was beautiful and he seemed to find it amusing, don't really understand why. Then he realised I was Australian and reverted to english. But hey, I tried!  

Saw there was another cathedral on the way back into the main area of town so decided that would be a nice place to stop and sit down out of the cold for a bit. I went in and found this little mini chapel which was awesome purely because the communion table or whatever you call it was supported by two bronzey pelicans! Awesome table. I discovered when I walked out of it into the main church that tourists weren't actually allowed in. Woops... The church itself was also fairly attractive, but nothing could beat the pelican table.  

When I got out the church I discovered that the sky had turned into a lovely twilight so I raced back to Grand Place to get some decent photos. Loads better than before.  

Thinking about dinner it seemed a good idea to try the apparently amazing fries of the city. Decided to head to a burger place I had read about in the city's use it guide, stopping on the way to buy a cushion. To be honest, not that impressed. I have definitely had better fries in my life. I think I'll just stick with waffles.  

The next day was much better in terms of weather and my feeling about the cit had improved. I had booked a train for that night so I could get a full day out of the city. That was my totally valid justification for catching the €40 more train rather than another bus anyway. That and the train ride only took like 2 and a half hours rather than 5.  

So after packing and the croissant I had grabbed on my way home last night for breakfast I was determined today Brussels and I would get along. As the weather was much nicer I went back to Grand Place and mannekin pis to take the obligatory photos. I then went and found the dog version of mannekin pis, way cooler.  

Yesterday on Place du Sablon I had seen a sign saying Claire's famous soup and sandwiches, so obviously I had to have some. Had an absolutely lovely tomato soup with meatball. Again the conversation was in french and I picked up that there was a tomato one, some other one and possible a lentil one. The meatbalks came as a surprise though, did not get that, but a very good surprise! After my soup I had seen a sign for hot chocolate at one of the chocolate places. I decided to get myself some famous belgian chocolate as well. The hot chocolate turned out to be very tasty, however slightly ruined by the not very nice cream they put on top. I also got three truffles (they had a deal with the hot chocolate so I was like sure, why not), a dark chocolate ganache bar and a mini hearts box (very close to valentines day as was quite clear by everything being heart shaped). These were saved for later on and to share with mother, which can I just say, I think was very self controlled of me. Although I did have the truffles wheh I got to London, I mean they obviously had to be eaten as they just would not last, and they were pretty damn awesome. I got their signature coffee one, a hazelnut ganache one, and a white inner and dark chocolate outer one.  

Not sure how to fill my last few hours I went down to the tourist centre. I saw that there was a car museum and thought why not, but as I headed down I decided that by the time I got there it would open for about another half an hour. Instead I headed for some lattice monument I thought might be cool. I then proceeded to not be able to find said lattice monument and so went into an english bookstore instead. After spending a while perusing I purchased the Twelve Chairs by Ilf and Petrov. It was probably not the best idea as a fairly heavy book, but as I was considering it a guy walked past and told me it was amazing so how could I not!  

Still having an hour or two to kill I decided I should get another waffle at Mokafe, end Brussels on a high after such a low beginning. Got distracted on the way in souvenir shops and purchased a pressie for Michelle, which I think is very cute Michelle so if you hate it I will be happy to keep it. Then sat in Mokafe with a cup of tea, waffle and my new book and was very happy!

Flutes at the musical instrument museum

Flutes at the musical instrument museum

View over Brussels from the Musical Instrument Museum cafe

View over Brussels from the Musical Instrument Museum cafe

Pelican table at the St Michael and Gudula Cathedral

Pelican table at the St Michael and Gudula Cathedral

The St Michael and Gudula Cathedral

The St Michael and Gudula Cathedral

Grand Place 1

Grand Place 1

Grand Place 2

Grand Place 2

A road leading to the Place du Sablon

A road leading to the Place du Sablon

The amazing Mokafe sugar waffle

The amazing Mokafe sugar waffle

My belgium chocolates

My belgium chocolates

Posted by Claire.Miller 01:11 Archived in Belgium Comments (0)

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