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James and Gretchens Latest Travels

Hello all, as you should know we're out and about again, exactly where, you'll have to read on to find out. Starting in Sydney where we've been the last year and a half, the rest you'll hear about soon. Cheers!

Diary Entries

Monday, 02 January 2006

Location: Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Just in case anyone out there still checks, we've been off for the last week escaping the drab surroundings of London and have headed back to Slovenia to Lake Bohinj but this time there is HUGE amounts of snow, a good couple of meters in untouched places, good fun!! We've tried a bit of snowboarding, sledding, snowshoeing and snow tubing, plus lčots of jumping around in the snow! We're back to London tomorrow and will most likely be there till nearer the end of the year when our visa runs out! Feel free to e-mail if you want, and I'll try and get some more photos up soon. Bye for now!

James and Gretchen

Wednesday, 24 August 2005

Location: Oxford, UK

Sad times, the fun is over and real life is once again upon us.

We arrived back into the UK yesterday to, quite surprisingly, sunny weather!

The last week of our trip was great, we just managed to drive up through Germany and stayed with a few of Gretchens old friends from university days which was great, they all put us up, cooked for us, let us use their shower (bonus) and generally made life a little bit easier for us so if any of you are reading, thanks! Much appreciated.

So now the real battle begins, job hunting! I guess thats not so exciting and really not worthy of writing the odd report so this must be it, thanks to all those who kept coming back for more and left their messages, Anne I know you're out there, can you send us one more message this time include your e-mail address so we can keep in touch and if any of you out there want to do the same please do. e-mail me at jamesm_nz@hotmail.com or gretchenhodgkiss@yahoo.co.nz.

I will be adding some more photos onto this page in the next few days so feel free to check back in a week or so and there should be more photos, otherwise its back to e-mails. Gretchen sends love to all and also says goodbye.

So, in the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, thats all folks!



Thursday, 18 August 2005

Location: Paderborn, Germany

Well....Hello.

The holiday is pretty-much over now, we´ve finished up in Croatia and now we are staying with a few of Gretchens German friends on our way back to England.

Croatia was quite an experience, not as thrid world as we both tought it would be, I know that sounds a little simple minded but we honstly didnt know what to expect in terms of culture and daily life. There were a lot of positive things about the place but also a few negative ones.

On the plus side, the scenery is absolutel amazing! All the coastline is as you may have seen in photos (or you will see ours soon) All rocky, almost desolate but such dramatic cliffs dropping into the most beautifully clear water. Not much vegetation more than 20 meters above sea-level but that just adds to the character of the coast.
-The inland areas are a whole different place, there is so much greenery, fields of crops, real green grass (not the brown drought grass we were used to) and it was quite similar to north island New Zealand or southern Germany. We only passed through on a bus on our way to Zagreb but it left us with a great image of the country all together

The main negative point I would have from our experience is the lack of enthusiasm and basic customer service you would normally expect from the locals in the customer servive jobs, the tourist office workers were often pre-occupied with their nails or conversations with work mates and when they were ready to help, they didn´t have much to say anyway. Both me and Gretchen got the feeling on more than one occasion that they actully resented the tourists, they know they have a beautiful country and we´ll all come ayway and that somehow means the can get away with complacentand substandard serice.

Now I dont want anyone to read this and think the place isn´t worth visiting! On the contrary, the scenery is stunning and if you aren´t expecting too much from the locals then you´ll have a great time. We certainly did! Its only when you compare it other places, example Slovenia, that some tings are a bit off.

Slovenia is an absolutely amazing place, an untapped destination with amazing scenery and in my opinion, some of the friendliest and talented people I´ve come across on these travels. People would stop in the street if we had a map open and ask if we needed help, the tourist offices were a goldmine for bargain things to do, places to eat an stay and the people all speak, I would guess and average of 3 languages each. It was great to see them talk to us in fluent english help the germans and the italians next to us, also fluently, and then talk to the co workers in Slovenian all in a couple of breaths. Makes me feel quite inferior and almost rude expecting tem to speak our language. Theres a challenge!

So... there it is, a great way to finish up, a bit of a change in scenery not having the van to depend on so there were a few stresses with buses, ferries and trains, also the accommodation turned out to hurt the wallet more than we would have thought, it´s just a great fall-back to be able to park on the side of the road and not have to pay €50 a night!

Our last day was a hge day of travelling, we left the island of Korcula at 6am on Tuesday by ferry and arrived in Split at 9, couple of hours to spare, have some brekkie and then had to wait an hour for our bus which was late. e left on the bus at 1pm and should have been in by 6pm in Zagreb, still needed to finalise tickets for our train at 9pm that night. The bus was in at 7pm so we had to run to the train station to see if the ticket office was still open, luckily it was and we got our tickets changed and jumped on the train for a 12 hour journey up through Austria and onto Munich and then Stuttgart. By 11am Wednesday morning we had finaly finished the travels, almost 30 hours later, and spent the day with Gretchens frien Linda.

Needless to say we both slept like logs last night and now, here in Paderborn, it´s dinner time. Must be off!

Bye, will report in at least one more time, probably from England to wrap it all up. So, till then! Bye!

James and Gretchen

Sunday, 14 August 2005

Location: Korčula, Croatia

Hello all! We're on the island of Korčula just of the coast of Croatia and the weather has turned from thunderstorms on our first night to a stupidly hot heat-wave! We've had a great time so far here, lazing on the beach (notice the reoccuring theme there) and swimming in the beautiful crystal clear waters. On this island, apparently the water is so clear that you can see the bottom of the ocean as deep as 21 meters!!

Today we hired a scooter and cruised around the island finding brilliant secluded beaches, awesome views and some appalling roads not designed for scooters!

We're staying in a private room above a cafe/pub with a great balcony where we spend the evenings watching all the rest of the tourists coming and going, its a really neat spot, two more nights here till we head towards the end. A couple of nights overnight on buses and trains and we'll be back in Germany by Thursday beginning the drive home.

Other than that I must say I was pleased to hear the All Blacks managed a win on the weekend! Hard luck Aussies!! Ha ha!

That should be enough for now. Hope all is well for all. Till next time.

James and Gretchen

Thursday, 11 August 2005

Location: Dubrovnik, Croatia

Hello again, we're down in DUbrovnik right at the bottom of croatia, and as expected its pretty awesome weather, we've had a couple of days on the beaches, and yesterday we took a boat trip out to a few of the islands along the dalmatian coast. It was a perfect day, no clouds in the sky, around 30ish so not deadly hot either thankfully, we just walked around the first island, great views up and down the coastline and then off to the next island which was a little bigger and has a great sandy beach thats about a 20 minute walk from where we landed. LAzed around in the sun for most of the afternoon and got back as the sun was setting, another great day.

We met a couple of guys from Melbourne on the boat so had a few beers with them when we got back, its always good to have someone new to talk to!

The place we're staying in is a little studio apartment, a little overpriced for what it is but really close to the beach, and it has a balcony which is great in the evenings! ONly one more night there and then we're off to the island of Korčula for 3 nights. Probably dont have any internet there so will write again in a few days. Take care.

James and Gretchen

Sunday, 07 August 2005

Location: Piran, Slovenia

Hi again, just a really quick one today, it's raining here at the beach today so lying in the sun has been put on hold for a day or two, we're confined to either the pub or our little one room apartment, each with their own pros and cons. The pub, obviously, has beer and internet but home has a bed and satelite tv, even a few english channels. We've been keeping up with the latest cycling, tour of benelux and also the athletics world champs.

Its our last night in Piran tonight then tomorrow we're into Croatia, spend the day in some out of the way town with a bus stop waiting for our overnight bus all the way down the dubrovnik. At least its a night without having to pay for accomodation!

Well, the rains easing, maybe we can get home dry, will write again soon.

James and Gretchen

Friday, 05 August 2005

Location: Piran, Slovenia

Here we are in Slovenia, but you'd never know it, it feels just like Italy!
We had a pretty average train trip here from Germany, we were completely surrounded by German school kids off on holiday camp, so that was interesting. But we survived, and arrived in Ljubljana early on Sunday morning.
It's a really pretty city. Smaller than we'd thought, but has a good old town and the standard european castle. So we explored that and found some accomodation, then spent the afternoon at a water park. Not so cultural, but lots of fun. Then at night we went out for dinner and drinks - town was going off! Its so pretty, people all along the canals and all the buildings lit up, it was great!
From there we went to Bohinj, a lake in west Slovenia. It's beautiful and clear and surrounded by mountains. We had a great time swimming and relaxing one day, then the next day we hired a raft to go down the river. The water was pretty low, so it wasn't scary at all, but a good scenic adventure, then they picked us up and took us back to our village.
And we saved the best for our last day. Canyoning. Aaahhhhh! I am such a chicken! It was a great day out though, there were 2 guides and 8 of us, a really fun group. It all started with a little jump, then a scary round-a-corner jump, then all sorts. It was so pretty and there was a good mixture of scary bits and tame bits. Sometimes you just lie back and float, then you slide around over little rapids. At one point it took about 4 countdowns before I finally jumped, we had to jump out over some jagged rocks, then drop about 3m. Then one big jump and it was over. One of the coolest things we've done on this trip.
Now we're by the beach and loving the sunshine. We've got a little appartment and bank accounts are starting to run low, so swimming, sleeping and home-cooked meals it is!
We're just about to add more photos, so check them out. Hope you're all coping with winter, he he.
See ya!

Saturday, 30 July 2005

Location: Meimsheim (again), Germany

Hey Again!!

We're about to enter phase 3 of our holiday, gone is Italy and France, the tour was awesome, as you've been hearing but now it's time for a good dose of beach weather. We're parking the van here in Germany with Gretchens exchange family and they're dropping us off at the train station and we're going overnight to Slovakia where we'll spend almost a week up near the Italian border in the mountains doing some walking and swimming in the mountain lakes and rivers, then we head to Croatia where theres not much planned but lying around in the sun all day and spend the odd day in one or two of the cities, Dubrovnic and then we leave from Zagreb back in about 3 weeks. And thus will end our intrepid journey, back to London, dodging buses and trains and look for jobs, this wont be the last entry, I'm sure we'll get bored of the sunshine and find internet once we're there and when we get back to London I'll make sure I add a whole heap of photos from all of our trip so keep checking back, for those of you following from London, we plan to be back around the 26th-28th of August so see you then. Aussie people, you can all look forward to full nights of sleep not interupted by the excitement of the tour and all Southern Hemisphereians, I'll think of you as the 40 degree heat beats down on my slowly roasting back and realise its mid winter where you are!! Enjoy!

Thats all for now, see ya!!

James and of course, Gretchen.

Thursday, 28 July 2005

Location: Colmar, France

Things have been pretty crazy here lately - our little tour has taken on a life of its own.
After a disappointing few days, missing out on Col d'Aubisque, then the Massif Cental wasn't what we'd expected, we stuffed up our days again and got to the team time trial a day early. Good work! But we figured we were close enough to the stage that was on, so off we went.
We had hours to wait, so went cycling, but less than 2minutes into it James bike broke, so he can onloy use half his gears now. Made it sad seeing all those unused tour bikes drive past!
So we took up our positions to watch the race and met an American guy who felt like a chat. Turns out hes Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crowes landscape gardner! So he had fun stories for us and made the day go fast.
Then we made it to St Etienne to see the time trial when it was actually happening; so that was great. One of the best days of the whole tour, loved it! We were less than 200m from the finish and right by a big screen, so it worked well.
At the end of that day we picked up our van, and some people had noticed our British numberplate, so gave us a mountain bike that someone else had left them but they couldnt get home. Primo! So now we have 3 bikes on tour.
From there we drove to Paris, with our new American friend John in tow because he couldnt get a train ticket. The best bit was he paid all our gas and tolls and put us up in a hotel for the night. But we didnt actually get there til after 3am; but nevermind.
The last day in paris was fantastic, its so good getting a good look at all the riders and being there for the awards.
We spent an extra day in town seeing the sights, then took off to Eurodisney for a day of madness. We loved it - has to be the happiest placve on earth. We spent 10 hours there, so it must have been good!
Now were relxing in the sunushine in Alsace with one of my brothers friends, then on Sat were catching a train to Slovenia, to spend a few weeks there and in Croatia. Well keep youi all posted.
Take care everyone and keep in touch. Well give you some more pics as soon as we have them ourselves.

Au revoir!!!

Wednesday, 20 July 2005

Location: Massif Central, France

Hello again, its been a while, no excuses, just too many things to do and too many things to see, weve finished in the mountains, it was a bit of an anti climax to the pyrenees because we werent qllowed up col d`aubisque becase there was too many people!

We had some good days riding, did 9 cols in 9 days although 3 of those days were variations on galibier, others included aspin, alpe dhuez, tourmalet, ventoux and tomorrow will be puy de dome. Good times, gretcen doesnt always share my enthusiasm but most of the time she'll give it a crack! She bet sheryl crows time up alp dhuez too! Who by the way we saw drive past in one of the team cars in the mountains!!

were in a supposed adventure area at the momeny but its a bit of a crock, everythngs ages away and we just ended up lying in the sun by a lake and were off to bbq this eve!!

The TT is next on the list on friday then paris on saturday for the grand finale then we're taking a few extra weeks to get some beach time in croatia and slovenia, parking in germany and training down to save my sanity!! Theres been over 7000km so far!!

Well, theres a grunpy french lady huffing and puffing waiting to get on so I should wrap up, hopz all are well, will try write from paris!! Till then!

James and Gretchen

Monday, 11 July 2005

Location: Col du Galibier, France

What a day!! We've just come down fro, Gretchens first ever beyond categorisation climb. The Col du Galibier for those of you who know its the highest point in this years tour qnd the boys will be going over in 2 days time. Without trying it yourself its very hard to describe it, Gretchen set off first from the town of Valloire, in a valley between Col du Telegraphe and Galibier, I went the other way with the best intentions of going down the other side, turning around and doing both in succession but once I got to the top of Telegraph I decided that if I wanted to feel my legs in the next 3 days it was wise to turn around there.

The climb itself is 17km long and rises from 1400m to 2600m give or take, the most Gretchen had done in one sitting was 500m and mine was about 1100m so it was a hell of a climb!! Gretchen had trouble with her back and stopped about 5km from the top and thats where I found her but after a stretch she was back on and made it to the top! We got lots of photos on the summit and on the way down and they will be on shortly but today we can put on some photos from earlier in our trip, check the, out on the photos page. If they're not there then be patient, soon!

ok, time to get these photos on; we attack alpe d'huez in a couple of days and look for us about 1-2km before the summit of the Col du Galibier if you're watching it live, we'll be there along with about a million others!!

Bye for now. Love to all those who need it.

James and Gretchen


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Recent Messages

From Anne
Bonjour or perhaps Buon Giorno more appropriate if you are in Italy !
Your travels sound like soooo much fun - not sure about those mountains though ???!!!
I printed off your messages and photos to give to Anna tonight when as per usual we suffer at the hands of Michael.
Ivan didn't teach last thursday some excuse of a cracked rib - what some people won't do to get out of teaching !
Le Tour in less than a week - don't forget to wave so we can spot you two on the tele !
Ciao, Anne
Hi Anne
Thanks for passing the messages on for us - make sure you say hi from us to all the other victims! We should have Michael give you a special 90min hill-climb class in honour of us.
Hope your foot is OK and everything in Sydney is going well. 2 more days, Ile de Nominateur here we come!