So in Vietnam now for about a week and only a few days left before we fly to Melbourne. Its been a fantastic adventure with my favourite being the sea kayaking we did in the Cat Ba National Park.
Daegal & I arrived on 3rd October and stayed in the ancient city of Hanoi - staying in the Old Quarter in fact. It has narrow windy streets in which every Vietnam person has a motorbike which they ride fearlessly everywhere! THe sound of horns tooting only fades in the deepest part of the night. THe pavements are full of parked motorbikes and whatever pavement is left is often used as part of the shop front or is just a makeshift food shop! Very exhausting to navigate at first but soon one can just ignore the sounds and join the locals in crossing the roads which have no rules!
So over a few days we have explored a bit of Hanoi. Unfortunately some places were closed when we went but we could admire them from the outside such as: Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh's House, Presidential Palace, One Pillar Pagoda and the Botanical Gardens. We did visit the Military Museum and saw Cot Co Flag Tower (actually we climbed it too). Quite by accident we saw Hoa Lo Prison - a harsh looking building with a grusome history. We walked around Hoan Kiem Lake and saw the locals doing their exercises! WE walked across the Huc Bridge which looks stunning. We walked the many streets of the Old Quarter - lots of fun!
THe highlight was for me the 3 day sea kayaking adventure that we went on in the Cat Ba National Park.
Location: London, England
Well its been a while but thats mainly due to being in London since it feels like forever! My ankle is nearly healed - just need to strengthen it so I can run and cycle again. Our kittens are getting so big now. We have found homes for 2 of them, are keeping 2 for us and need to find a home for the last kitten. Shouldn't be hard as they're all adorable!
In saying that I've been in London for ages, well not for much longer. We're off to Cornwall next week for a wedding, then in July we go to Bath for another wedding.
We're also moving house in a fortnight so need ato do a lot of packing.
Location: London, England
Our foster cat Coco-Amber has just had 5 kittens! She is exhausted but all are doing fine! Her brother has been concerned but very good about it all. Daegal & I feel exhausted too!
Location: London, England
Daegal & I have been looking into getting cats. We want 2 so they don;t get lonely when we are at work. So to help us decide we are looking after 2 cats for 6 weeks. They are 2 black cats, brother and sister about 1.5yrs old. Their names are Calypso & Coco-Amber. They've only been with us for a few days now but are settling in ok. My plant, Draco, was getting eaten to pieces so I've had to put Draco on top of the fridge for safety reasons! I'm still off work with my fractured ankle so they are good company for me - very entertaining.
Location: London, England
I had a lovely christmas here in London. Now that we're in our own place, Daegal and I had his Dad and his partner come over from Paris for christmas. It was a lovely 4 days although I had to work some of it. I enjoyed having family around again.
January has been fairly uneventful. I decided to do a half marathon when Daegal does his marathon so started running and training for the marathon.
February has started out cold, lots of snow everywhere - its amazing how a bit of snow stops a huge city like London from operating! I had to walk for 45mins to catch a tube to work - took me 2 hours in total but I made it!
So, then on 12th Feb, I was playing netball and had a fall - fell over my own feet! My left foot went under, I heard a couple of popping noises and decided not to get up as it was painful! Daegal got me to A&E at St Georges and hours later my left lower leg is in plaster, I have crutches to get around on and may be off work for a month or so! So no half marathon run for me just yet. Oh and daytime TV is boring, I'm going crazy and its only been 3 days off work for me so far!!!!
Location: Tokyo, Japan
What a lovely couple of nights. My first trip to Japan and Tokyo is stunning. Unfortunately, it was overcast and raining most of the time I was there and I only ended up with one full day. I hope to return one day but with so many other places to visit it may be a while.
I had an enjoyable day exploring the sights of Tokyo. I especially liked the Imperial East Gardens - it was so quiet and peaceful there that I did not think I was in the centre of a vibrant bust city. The Japanese people are so friendly and polite. Its a change going on the metro system and seeing everyone standing in queue's and waiting politely for everyone to get off the train before getting on!
The Meij-Jingu shrine is amazing - it was interesting seeing all the families in traditional costume going to celebrate their faith. Stunning!
Overall I had a lovely day in Tokyo.
Location: Christchurch, New Zealand
An oh so quick visit to New Zealand to celebrate my Dad's 60th birthday. It was lovely to see my family again. My nieces have grown so much and I enjoyed spending time with everyone. It was great to catch up with friends in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. I'm glad to be coming back next year for Brooke's wedding and this time Daegal will be coming with me.
Location: Rarotonga, Cook Islands
I'm going home to NZ for my Dad's 60th birthday. I'm not surprising anyone, they all know I'm coming.
To break up the long journey home and to recover from my jet lag I've stopped off in beautiful, sunny Rarotonga. And it is sunny which me, coming from overcast London could not handle. On the first day I put my sunblock on and went out to enjoy the island and promptly turned bright red! Not fair! So I had to cover up for the rest of my time here and apply aftersun regularly.
Rarotonga is gorgeous. I did not do much more than wander around, eat the delicious seafood and swim in the sea. I hired a bike one day and cycled around the island with its golden sands, lush jungle and blue skies. It rained one night which helped to cool things down, slightly! And I relaxed and forgot about work. I now feel stress-free.
This was a wonderful way to break up my journey before seeing family and friends again in New Zealand.
Location: London, England
Went for my first run in a long time today - lots of fun and much needed after all those steins drank at Beerfest! Now that I'm living in Earlsfield there are lots of new places to explore. For my run I ran to Wimbledon Park. I only managed to run a small portion of it but its a lovely park with a lake (boaters were out and about). On the other side of the park is Wimbledon All Lawn Tennis Courts - I always thought it was in the middle of nowhere whenever I went but now its just a run away yay!
Location: Munich, Germany
What a weekend! Ben is leaving to go home to New Zealand for good so a few of us went with him to Munich to celebrate beer. There was meant to be another girl going but at the last minute she pulled out so it was me and the lads: Daegal, Ben, Dan, John and Bernie. Bernie was a mate of Dans that he met when in Croatia where he was travelling before meeting us in Munich.
We did a tour organised by Tim the Tourman. Not much of a tour as we were left to do our own thing - we did get a charming red t-shirt to drink beer in. Oktoberfest opened on Saturday at 9am. We had been queuing since 7.30. Just before 9 the squashing started - not pleasant and thankfully only last 20mins or so. 3000 people just wanted to get into the beer hall at the same time. We chose the Hofbrau tent to start in being the most famous. Once in we managed to score a table - no table = no beer unless one wanted to go into the pigpen where you can stand up but it gets messy in there. We had a lovely lady serving us. Very friendly. Until the first keg was opened at 12 midday we were served water or soft drinks - much enjoyment watching everyone. Loads of people were dressed in tradition dress, men in lader-hosen and all sorts! We had to wait about 45mins for our first beer and it was worth it! So the day just continued and when we were tired of drinking beer, we headed outside to enjoy the delights of the fairground. Going on a rollercoaster after a few steins is fun!
On the Sunday we did some tourist sightseeing by going to Andrachs monestry where, by pure chance that is, the monks have been brewing beer for a long long time! After sampling the beer and food there we went back to Oktoberfest and enjoyed the delights of the Lowenbrau tent. It took us some strategic planning to get into this tent: Ben just walked in, Dan snuck in behind some others while Daegal & I had to wait for a gap in the defences of security and sneak in an unguarded backdoor! We had a great evening sitting outside the tent enjoying the ambiance.
A fun weekend had by all and some days I miss having a stein of beer with pig knuckle side!
Location: St Anna Archipelago, Sweden
When Daegal mentioned sea kayaking in Sweden for a holiday I was a bit dubious. I've only ever done this once before (last year with Daegal in NZ) so not sure if its me or not. But I thought 'lets give it a go'. We got a few friends to join us - Andy, Liz & Ben - and headed off to Sweden. The company provides the kayaks, all the camping gear we need and the food which we pre-ordered. The area in Sweden that we went to is St Anna archipelago which has over 3000 islands and we got to camp wherever we wanted! And cook our own food in such stunning scenery. Some of the islands have permanent residents or are bird sancturies (which you can not land on for 6 months of the year) but most are un-occupied.
We had the usual dramas of getting to Stansted Airport during the night. To make it easier we all stayed at Andy & Liz's so we could take the night bus to the airport -except that when we got to Liverpool St Station, the night bus was fully booked and yes, it was another cab journey to an airport (almost a recurring theme for Daegal & I now!). We also managed to leave behind some essential food for our adventure - twice!
On arrival in Sweden, we were greeted by Thomas who runs the company, Do The North, who we used for the trip. He took us out to our start point, helped us load the kayaks, went over safety issues, navigation etc and waved us on our way. We had 2 double kayaks and a single. How to describe the 5 days is hard. The scenery is wonderful: islands are everywhere some with trees & bushes others quite barren and rocky and all green. Mosquitos are everywhere - and they BITE! Even through layers and layers of insect repellant! The ants were particually viscous as well. Daegal seemed to be the favorite target of all of us and was covered in bites from day 1 and he also got stung by a bee which made his hand swell up. We mainly saw birds as the local wildlife - the eagles were beautiful, very majestic. Swans, herons and other sea birds. The water is so clear and you can see jellyfish (non stinging ones) floating in the sea.
Each night we found a deserted island and set up the tents, collected firewood for the fire, cooked our dinner and relaxed from our kayaking we had done that day. The first 2 nights is rained. Not as much fun camping out in the rain, cooking dinner in the rain and trying to keep warm & dry. But it didn't seem to matter that much. We had good company & ate like kings - fondue in the rain over an open fire - its the best fondue I've ever had! Toasting marshmellows - those who like to have their marshmellows on fire vs those who prefer the slow brown cooking method! The last 2 days were rain free but windier so it limited how far we could travel. Some of the islands are only metres apart while others are kilometres away. There is a shipping lane with lighthouses that we had to navigate several times. Navigation was tricky but Andy especially had a real knack for it and guided us around well. The nights when it wasn't raining we would watch the stars, seeing if we could see any shooting stars, (I saw one), satellites, planets etc.
Oh, one day we had a kinda rest day. We had kayaked for several hours before setting up camp. The sun was out so we took the time to dry all our clothes. Just off our island was a small rock so Daegal & Ben swam out to it with the cricket bat and had a game of cricket. I loved it when they were fielding in the open sea! One ball is now on a journey of the Baltic.
After 5 days with no shower we were really looking forward to the shower before getting on the plane to London. It didn't happen so I'm so sorry for the other people on our ryan air flight. The company collect us from our return point and take us somewhere for a shower but on our morning our pickup man: well first he overslept, then got caught by police for speeding was breathalised and taken to the station. So he got a taxi to collect us, take us to the station (we had to collect our bags and passports) where we found out he had had a blood sample taken too! The taxi just stopped, our bags thrown in and we were off to the airport. We made it with half hour to spare.
Despite the getting to airport sagas, we had an amazing time and if the option comes up again - I'd go!
Location: Portumna, Ireland
After a 3 year engagement, Nicola & Dermot are finally married. I work with Nicola and along with a couple of other workmates we went over to Ireland to their wedding. Nicola has been so secretive about her dress or any details about the wedding and she looked beautiful.
The days leading up to the wedding were gray as there was heavy rain in Ireland and several rivers burst their banks causing flooding in many places. But on Saturday, apart from a few light showers it was fine. The wedding took place in Nicola's parish church in Duniry and the reception was at the Shannon Oaks Hotel in Portumna where we were staying. The Irish sure know how to party, the reception was still going strong when we staggered to bed in the early hours of sunday!
As we had hired a car, and also since it was Deagal's first time in Ireland, we went exploring the Burren area and the coast nearby. We found a nice cave in Aillwee which was fun to explore. It was also here that I realised I had not locked the car which was sitting in the car park with all our bags in view for anyone to steal. Thankfully they didn't! Oh, I then put a dent in our rental car. When we arrived at Shannon airport they said 'we're really sorry but we have to give you a bigger car than what you ordered'. We ended up with a station wagon, huge which is why I hit a rock bordering the car park and it dented the back bumper! Next we went to see an old dolmen thats older than both the pyramids and stonehenge! Next we went to see the Cliffs of Moher where I had my most blonde moment ever! We were happily taking photos of the cliffs, moving from spot to spot when I asked 'wheres my bag?' My bag had our passports, flight details, my bank cards in it - Daegal had the cash luckily! I frantically ran back to where we had been and it was gone! My heart sank until I heard an Irish voice say 'are you looking for this bag?' Some random bloke had found it and looked after it until I came back. Many thanks to him.
And that ended our Irish adventures as we had to go back to Shannon and then to London. The craic rocks in Ireland. Wishing Nicola & Dermot many years of happiness and joy.
Location: Earlsfield, England
Daegal and I moved into our new flat last weekend. It went really smoothly and we are beginning to feel settled in the new place. We had our housewarming yesterday and would like to thank everyone for their welcome messages. Wish for more sunny days and bbq's in the garden.
Location: Durham, England
New Zealand are over playing england in the cricket. We wanted to go to Lords to watch them play a one-dayer but the ticket was a bit expensive! So instead we rented an apartment in Durham so we could watch the lads play at Chester-Le-Street Cricket ground. We took a train up on the Friday after work and wished that the rain would stop.
On the Saturday morning we managed to go to the local rugby club and watch the All Blacks play. It was fun to experience the game surrounded by local England supporters. Then it was time to sight see - mainly the town of Durham (which has yummy fudge) its cathedral and a stroll along the river to the botanical gardens.
On the Sunday we took the free shuttle bus to the cricket ground where Ben, Andy, Liz, Daegal and I enjoyed being next to the Barmy Army with all their weird chants and antics! The Black Caps had a bad game but we did get to see Pieterson do his 'change hands and hit a six' trick! A very exciting vibrant atmosphere!
Location: Twickenham, England
Another sensational day organised out by Geno & Vicki - the annual day out to the London Rugby 7's final day. They sort out our tickets and food & booze for lunch. It was another splendid day in London i.e. it was gray and rainy until the rugby started then it was just gray! The rugby 7's had its usual ups and downs and surprise wins (who would have thought England would beat New Zealand? and that Australia would not even make it into the quarters for the cup?) All round great day - but I'm not too sure that wine is meant to be drunk by the pint!