Location: Ibiza, Spain
Last weekend Richie, Diana, Stef and I headed to Ibiza the land of some serious partying. We arrived very late on the Friday night, and whilst considering heading out, we only had a couple drinks and a bite to eat so the weekend didnt really start until the Saturday.
We were staying right on the beach, on a reasonably main drag with bars and restaurants, and not far from some of the biggest clubs in Ibiza. Oh, and right under the flight path of the jets, as the came over the beach and landed not far behind the hotel a bit of an experience watching those big planes come in; and come in regularly.
The Saturday we had a few drinks in the avo at the Bora Bora beach bar. What a place! A beach front day time night club. And the people loved it just drinking up the booze, and dancing on the beach and the tables on the beach. Phenomenal. It was that night that we considered heading out, but after a few pre-drinks (it is pricy) we lost the will to head out. Bummer.
The Sunday we headed into the old town to have a look around and do a bit more than just beach and booze. Once back at the beach in the early avo, we had a monster seafood paella for lunch. What a great meal! Finally, Sunday night, the last night Richie and Diana were there, we headed off to Space Nightclub for their We Love Space Sundays session. What a nightclub not like anything you see in Australia. Massive. Crazy sound systems. And $7 per bottle of beer a 330ml bottle. What a joke! But we danced away for hours, having a ball.
The next day, when we eventually got up, we headed back to the beach as per usual! That evening we had dinner, and drinks in the room, before Richie and Diana headed off to the airport for their flight back to England. Eventually, Stef and I headed to Privilege nightclub to see the Tiesto Monday night house set. What a f--king show! The nightclub was a converted aircraft hanger, about 5 stories high and an open space. There was a massive pond in the middle of the club, with a bridge over it, a dance floor on top of it, and an incredible sound system. Whats more, with the tropical storm that was hitting town that night, the place had what appeared to be a waterfall coming from the roof! Ha, it was incredible.
Tiesto finally came on stage at about 1am. I was feeling a little crook, so took to the beers slowly and eventually got into the swing of things. The rain kept falling, the tunes were pumping, and the crowd was loving it. Dont get me wrong, it was $70 odd to get into the night club, but it was worth every cent. Tiesto fired up at around 1 am, and kept going and going. The light show was huge, with the entire back wall decked out in a 5 story video screen. We eventually left the club around 530am, only for the fact that we needed to get back to the hotel to pick our bags up and head to the airport. Tiesto was still playing when we left, and by all reports, he played a full 6 hours, until 7 am. What a crazy night, and what a great trip. Well, well worth it. Only down side, not having Charlie Bull there with us.
Location: Bristol & Southampton, England
Richie and Diana arrived all the way from Australia on Thursday the 3rd. Over the weekend in Bristol, we, including Charlie, Richie, Diana, Andy Broome and Charlies friend Lucy all had a BBQ at Charlies house, and then walked the short 5 minute walk to the Bristol Rovers (The Gas) football ground to see a League 1 soccer match. It was the first time Id been to a soccer game in Bristol, and the first game for Charlie, Richie and Diana. Bristol beat Milwall 2-0, and the highlight of the day had to be hearing the Rovers fans behind the goals in the Blackthorn stand shouting Ooooooooooooohhhhhhh Your SHIT aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh every time there was a goal kick from the Milwall goalie!
Though the talking point had to be just how suburban the ground is. You can barely spot the ground from one street away! And the craziest part was the fact that the toilets are actually housed in shipping containers that certainly dont look too temporary!
Richard, Diana and I headed to Southampton on the Wednesday to watch the Aussies play England in the one-day cricket match at the Rose Bowl. It was a glorious morning and we happily headed to watch the day-night match. We caught up with a bunch of the Titans lads including Huw, Wombat, Clarky and Dash. It was, to be honest, a pretty boring match. The Aussies blitzed the Poms batting line-up, and then made the slowest run chase of all time. The weather turned brutally cold in the evening, and the night session of the game was damn chilly! And in shorts, even worse
That evening, despite knowing where the Aussie cricket squad were partying, we didnt head out. Too tired, way too tired, and too cold!
Today, we headed to the Southampton Boat Show. That was the first time I had been to a boat show, and some of the mega-yachts that were there were incredible. We saw the unveiling of a new mega-yacht, with the all girl string group, Escala, and the ribbon cut by F1 legend Eddie Jordan. A pretty fun day all in all, and something to aspire to! Haha.
Location: London, England
The August long weekend, as happens every year, is Notting Hill Carnival weekend. Charlotte and I headed into London for the weekend and tried to make the most of it. We stayed at her friend Sarahs house a NZ diplomat with a 3-bed house in London paid for by the NZ tax payers! Lovely house, up in Swiss Cottage, a lovely area of London.
It was a weekend of brunches, and we wandered around Camden and the markets, where I dragged Charlotte past the first bar that we ever danced at. She didnt recognize it. Admittedly, it was the last bar of the night by the time I started twirling her, wed had a few drinks by the time we got there, and it looked much different during the day, so I was able to forgive her!
Sunday night we headed to see the Lion King at the West End theatres. What a spectacular show. A nice dinner before hand, and once again, a spectacular show.
On the Monday we headed out for a day at the Carnival. Every time I visit, it is a fantastic event. I cannot give it enough positive comments get there if you can. We caught up with Matt Clark, and Andy Scales over the course of the day, along with the requisite cans of average beer, not particularly cold, purchased from a man in his front yard selling from an eskie! Then we starter the long trip back to Bristol in the late afternoon.
Location: Southampton, UK
Last weekend Charlie and I celebrated her birthday by heading to Southampton for the wedding of Tom & Jenna Donald on the Saturday avo. I had been house sharing with Tom when I first moved to Southampton, and travelled to Prague with him for a long weekend back in early 2007.
Anyway, I booked a room at the Southampton Hilton, as that is where the wedding was taking place, and it made sense to stay there as it was a little way out of town and away from any other hotels. And of course, it was Charlies birthday, so we couldnt stay in a flea pit!
When we arrived we were checked into a suite, which of course Charlie thought I had upgraded as a lovely birthday gesture; unfortunately I had not, fortunately I didnt lie and say I had! We were making the most of the suite, sipping on the champagne we had brought along and eating away on the strawberries, slowly getting ready for the evening. We also ordered some room service to tide us over
it just happened to arrive just after Charlie got out of the shower and walked into the main room from the bedroom giving the room service guy a bit more of an eyeful than he expected.
Aside from Tom and Jenna, the only people I knew who would be at the wedding were Stef and Dan, and Charlie knew no-one, so we werent in too much of a hurry to head down. When the room was commandeered by the hotel staff for reconfiguration from the meal to the evening reception, Stef and Dan decided to head up to the suite to join us as they had no where else to go. After not too long there was a knock at the door and the hotel manager was standing there. It turned out that we HAD been given the wrong room, and had only booked a standard and not the suite. More so, it seemed that we were in the brides parents room, and Jennas mum was down in the reception fuming that she couldnt get into her room to refresh!
So, whilst being relocated, Charlie managed to get a complimentary breakfast thrown in with our stay which we had in bed the following morning. The manager also recognized that we were drinking Champagne (albeit a 15 pound bottle from Tesco) and offered another bottle complimentary, this time HG Mumm! So the four us relocated rooms, and sipped the more expensive Champagne before heading down to the wedding reception.
It was a great night, with plenty of drinking by the four of us, and everyone else the Donald clan were Scottish after all, as were Jennas family come to think of it! We also tried to strut our moves on the dance floor in a less than convincing manner. After the end of the reception, things turned a little Hangover-esque, with us all returning to the hotel room with our drinks while Stef and Dan waited for a cab. After that everyone is very hazy, until we Charlie and I were woken up by the room service breakfast delivery, sleeping partially clothed on top of the bed covers, with the lights all on. Yet we managed to hang up our suit & dress before passing out. In any case, it was a strange site, and our heads were pounding away. Needless to say it was a rather slow drive back to Bristol on the Sunday, and I had to do the driving while Charlie nursed herself in the passenger seat back to the land of the living!
Location: Toulon & Marseille, France
On Saturday, I took Charlotte to the south of France for her birthday. It was a week early, but with a wedding this weekend on her birthday, we decided to head off on the 8th. We flew out Saturday evening, and as the airport is beyond the balloon fiesta, we gave ourselves a bit of extra time for the trip, but almost not enough. The traffic was horrendous, and with the Red Arrows doing a show at the time we were making our way to the airport, traffic slowed even more to look out their windows.
The trip was supposed to be a surprise, with Charlotte only knowing she needed to take Monday and Tuesday off of work. I had her convinced that we were headed for a weekend away somewhere in the UK, and a bit of a road trip. Unfortunately, a few weeks earlier after our last football match when discussing with a few people what weekend would be ideal for the presentation evening, instead of saying on the 8th well be away for your birthday I said on the 8th well be in France; ball dropped.
We arrived into Hyeres airport and cleared customs just after 10 pm, and headed out to try and get to Toulon, our base for the weekend. Unfortunately, the weekend didnt start as expected and the frequent all day busses as suggested on the airport website finishing about an hour earlier than our arrival. We were stuck at the airport, forced to cough up for a 20 km, 50 taxi ride. Thankfully the information desk at the airport was staffed and told us how much to expect. The taxi driver took us right to the door of our Hotel Little Palace, and I was pleased to find that the hotel booking had been successful, despite my doubts regarding the language barrier in the booking process and arriving after 11 pm.
The night we arrived we had a quick wander around town and headed to the small port that was still full of French tourists holidaying in the warm southern Provence region of France. The air was still warm and humid; the restaurants were still full of people dining al fresco, and sipping drinks; and plenty of people wandering along the marina with ice creams.
The following morning we arose reasonably early and grabbed some breakfast in the old town before heading off to Marseille by train. The 45 minute train ride was a scenic journey along the southern coast line, and before long we arrived in the Frances second largest city. Immediately as we emerged from the train station we headed to the marina area of Marseille, essentially walking downhill until we reached the water. It was a picture perfect day, and the Vieux Port marina had the looks to match. After walking through the Vieux Port fish markets, and getting our bearings, we decided to head to the citys highest point and visit the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde (Lady of the Guard).
It was a sweaty walk up the hill, but was well worth the trip admittedly, we could have caught the bus! The views over the Vieux Port, the city itself, and out over the Mediterranean to Chateau dIf. The hill rises 148 meters above sea level, and the basilica towers further above, with a tower and finally the 10m high statue of the Virgin Mary carrying baby Jesus. The place of worship dates back to 1214 when a hermit came to live on the hill top. In 1218, Peter the hermit built a chapel which he dedicated to Our Lady the Guard, looking over the many sailors who used the port. The chapel has been rebuilt and enlarged over the years as the numbers of pilgrims increased. The current incarnation of the chapel was begun in 1851 and consecrated in 1864.
Having explored the basilica, we made our way back down the hill and headed back to the Vieux Port. The next item on the agenda was to get onto Ile dIf and visit the chateau that was the inspiration for the book The Count of Monte Cristo. We caught the short ferry ride across to the Ile dIf, and ventured into the chateau which began construction in 1524 as a defensive structure for the city of Marseille. It wasnt much later, in the late-16th century that the fortress was being used for incarceration. At its peak in 1852, 304 detainees were held in the small chateau, which cant have been anything near comfortable at all. But the most famous of these prisoners is the fictional character Edmond Dantes from the Alexandre Dumas novel The Count of Monte-Cristo, who spent 8 years in captivity on the Ile. From the Ile we headed back to the mainland and wandered along the harbor, stopping to take some pictures of the La Cathedrale de la Major which despite its grand design and location at the mouth of the harbor, appeared to be entirely deserted.
Walking back into the harbor, past all of the local fishermen, we stopped and had a beer at a small cafe before heading off to find some dinner. The pedestrian zone just to the south of the Vieux Port is rammed full of restaurants, all serving seafood dishes, most commonly the French Riviera specialty Bouillabaisse. Essentially the dish a mix of seafood, including different fish, prawns, mussels, crabs all in a broth soup, served with crusty bread. Admittedly, both Charlie and I found the seafood taste it a little too overpowering, as it essentially tasted as I imagine the floor of a fish market would taste. After dinner we wandered the night market before heading back to Toulon.
The following morning we woke up and decided to take a boat cruise around the harbor of Toulon and past the naval installation to get a good look at all of the French naval ship stationed there. It was a great sight, and sitting on the deck in the Sun was glorious, but of course we didnt stop and think that the tour commentary would be in French, so for 45 minutes we sat and listened to incomprehensible French nonsense. Getting up and close to the Charles de Gaul aircraft carrier was amazing and it was good to see just how large the ship was.
After the ship tour we decided to spend the afternoon on Saint-Mandrier-sur-Mer, and 15 minute ferry ride from Toulon. It was a thin strip of beach, but it stretched for quite a distance, and seemed as if half of the French population was visiting. More importantly though, it was a proper soft sand beach, and not one of coarse sand, or even rocks, that you see so often on the Mediterranean. We lazed away on the beach for a while, getting some Sun, shade and a swim, before having a couple below par mojitos at one of the local bars overlooking the beach. It was a pretty cool set-up in the town, with carnival rides and games for the kids as the Sun started setting I could see why so many French families were visiting. That night after we caught the ferry back to Toulon we had a nice meal on the harbor front before grabbing a couple of drinks and a massive ice-cream dessert.
The following day we had most of the day to kill before flying out to Bristol. As such we decided to head to the local beach in Toulon, in a suburb called Le Mourillon. It was about a half hour walk in the scorching Sun to get to the beach from our hotel and by the time we arrived we were ready too cool off. The beach was one of the coarse sand varieties and was surrounded by lush green parkland, with many of the visitors preferring to set their beach towels on the grass under a tree than on the sand. The beaches seemed to comprise of 3 small bays, and we ended up on the thin strip of sand separating the 2nd and 3rd bays, underneath a small coconut tree that really didnt offer much shade. As the day wore on, I had to continually readjust my blanket, turning with the Sun to catch the shade cast by the thin tree. Again it appeared half of France was at the beach, and with the narrow beaches, towel space was at a premium.
After a healthy lunch of crème Brulee, we had one last dip and a thorough rinse under the showers before heading off to pick up our bags and head to the airport this time on a much more cost effective bus, rather than taxi. Arriving in plenty of time, we had a bit of a wait before flying safely back to Bristol, and thus ending an awesome weekend in France.