Location: Oslo, Norway
Oslo provided perfect Autumn weather - crisp & clear - the perfect way to enjoy the surprisingly warmish weather & beautiful golden folage. It is a really nice city, has a laid back feel & also has quite a lot of ethnic diversity.
We couldn't leave Oslo without seeing a bit of Edvard Munch - so we visited the museum of his name in search of at least seeing his famous "Scream" painting. Although, he had quite an interesting life & we have a new appreciation of his work - it doesn't actually house the Scream.....we had to head into the city to the National Gallery to see it. Pays to do your research.
Also visited Bygdoy - went to the Huk beach & later to the Viking Museum. They uncovered 3 viking vessels in the late 1800's which were used for burial chambers of some nobles. Lucky for all of us, the Vikings, like Egyptians believed in the afterlife - so not only were these 9th century boats well preserved, but alot of other treasures (they also buried some horses & dogs for them....useful). That was really interesting - the boats we saw would have had room for 30 oars/men.
It was such beautiful day we walked back into town, along the harbour, past the royal palace - we really enjoyed Norway!
Location: Bergen, Norway
We left Sheila, Scott & Mel with our last early wake up call at 4am to make our 620am flight to Oslo. Before our connecting flight to Bergen we were able to travel in Tomberg for a quick look around - which was a lovely little town. We also got a taste of how expensive Norway was - I humble cup of coffee & simple sandwich was over $40...lucky it tasted pretty good.
The flight to Bergen was in a smallish plane which was fine until we started to decend.....she was a bit rough and we nearly saw that expensive lunch again. A local thought our pale faces were funny, explaining it is good for your stomach! Crazy Norweigan!
Bergen is a really beautiful city and the gateway to the fjords. The following morning we took the cable car up to Mt Floyen which had great views of the city & surrounding fjords. We did some hiking around the trails for a couple of hours, which we really enjoyed.
The following day we took the train to Oslo - it was absolutely teeming with rain - big massive droplets. Perfect for our stroll to the train station. Apparently it rains over 260 days a year in Bergen so nothing new for the locals. So it wasn't looking good for our train ride....but it actually provided beautiful waterfalls and gushing rivers along the first part of the journey through the fjords & mountains. Next the train headed up into the mountains - there was a fair bit of snow about which was just lovely. Finally on the other side we followed beautiful rolling hills & lakes in perfect sunshine towards Oslo. What a train ride huh & understand why it is one of the top rail journeys in the world.
Location: Stirling & Isle of Skye, Scotland
We visited Stirling a couple of weekends ago, which is a really nice town. The Old Town has some great architecture including of course Stirling Castle. The other great attraction is the National William Wallace Monument (think Braveheart) - which was the highlight.
Built in Stirling, as it is in the middle of Edinburgh & Glagow as they still squabbled back then....it traces the history of Willie Wallace who won a famous battle with the English on Stirling Bridge (don't remember that from the movie though!!) Spread over about 4 or 5 levels you eventually reach the top of the monument, which has great views in all directions (which is why Stirling was so important to control).
We have also been on a 4 night trip up to the Highlands, with Kerry & Geoff which was fantastic. After leaving Glasgow, we followed Loch Lomond, through Glen Coe and up Loch Ness to Inverness. We spent a couple of nights on the Isle of Skye, which was just beautiful.
It is getting really cold here in Scotland (especially in the mornings!), so we are looking forward to taking off for the final leg of our travels in just over a week. So we have two and a half months of travel to go before we arrive back in Brisbane on Xmas day. We will try & keep planet ranger up to date on our adventures!!
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
We popped over to Stockholm on Friday evening for a weekend getaway. Stockholm is very easy on the eye, for many reasons ;-) It is built on 14 islands, with lots of nice waterfront buildings, is extremely clean and well organised.
The weather was not so kind to us on Saturday - it rained pretty much all day. But Stockholm is well equipped with museums so it was all okay! We visited Skansen which is an open-air museum - it was really good. It has over a hundred examples of traditional Swedish houses & exhibits, a zoo with native Swedish animals (bears, moose, seals & of course reindeer) along a great interpretation of the native 'Sami' indigenious people of Scandanavia.
Also visited the National Museum - artworks etc, but it had a feature on Swedish furniture design. It felt like walking through an IKEA store but easier to get out of!!!
Went downtown to a cool little area for some Abro beers - caught some of the World Cup qualifier game Sweden vs Albania.
Sunday was a better weather - visited the Royal Palace which is still used to accommodate dignitaries & host events - 608 rooms makes it the largest royal palace in the world! There you go.... We were there for the changing of the guard....which includes a full marching band. Not a bad way to start your shift.
So we had a lovely time and are having a break at home in Glasgow for the next couple of weeks to recover from our busy schedule. We have Kerry & Geoff coming to visit after that and will be travelling to the Isle of Skye......
Location: Melrose, Scotland
We headed to the Scottish Borders region for the weekend - travelled via Edinburgh through Peebles to the lovely town of Melrose (home of the Melrose 7 rugby for diehard fans). It was a gorgeous drive - followed the River Tweed for most of the way, which was scattered with fly fisherman along the way....
Lunch was down by the river, but we were distracted by the Aust vs RSA game which about to start. Unfortunately, it was not being shown on Sky TV until midnight - not deemed veryimportant when football is on. However, thanks to Ange we had regular updates and commentary on the pitiful performance.
Instead we went to Melrose Abbey which was originally established by Cistercian monks in the 12th century. It was really interesting and we ended up staying for a couple of hours (with a slight distraction from some G & T drinkers...you know you are!).
We stayed at the Youth Hostel in Melrose (an old Georgian Mansion) - but not sure why they call it youth as we were the youngest by a long, long way! The Scottish hostels are really well set up and always in great old buildings, in good locations.
The local was the Ship Inn which was a great spot - we were luckily enough to be in the presence of a Scottish Stag Night. That was interesting ...we had a fun night though.
The weather was absolutely terrible the next day - so we headed back to Edinburgh to visit the castle. Can officially say we were over the rain by the end of the day...let's hope Stockholm will have better weather in store for us!
Location: Isle of Arran, Scotland
This weekend was another ferry ride an hour away from Glasgow to the Isle of Arran. They call it 'mini Scotland' as it has a bit of everything - it's own whisky distillery, cheese, aromatics, castle and of course mountainous scenery. So we had a busy weekend.
We headed towards Lochranza and stayed in a great hostel - overlooking a loch and a great ruined 13th century castle down the road.
We did a hike up through the saddle of two mountains which gave great views through the valley and then across to Fyfe of Clyde. There are red deer and lots of black faced sheep about - we noticed the sheep were doing the 'mowing' on the local soccer pitch. The girls were later moved aside for the Saturday afternoon match though - we all could do with a one of those at home!
There was a storm that night - well it was probably just normal wind and rain to locals but seemed pretty vicious to us. So it was dinner and Scrabble - an early night.
The following day was just lovely - took a bus into Brodick which is the main town. The bandits were back - we hired some bikes for a couple of hours and toured the local sights before heading along the coast of the island...bit sore on Monday that is for sure!
So another great weekend with minimal rain - can we be lucky three times in a row???
It has been a while since our last entry.... we have been busy settling into Scottish life - getting used that thing called rain, trying to understand Glasweigan accents/slang and seeing men in kilts everyday. It has all been a very pleasant experience (well, maybe the rain is not such a novelty anymore) and it seems whereever we go we seem to meet fantastic locals.
Our jobs are going well and it looks like we will both be at the same places until November which will be perfect. Thomas is working for Calendonian University in accounts and Julie for McAlpine Plumbing (so if you need to know anything about traps & gullies.....best talk to someone else!). We are living with Sheila & Scott who are a lovely Scottish couple and of course Mel the sometimes naughty but gorgeous beagle.
We have been busy on the weekends exploring our surroundings and have the next month or so planned. The Edinburgh Festivals are on - headed there a few weekends ago to see 3 comedy acts which were good, good & pretty strange respectively. It is amazingly well set up and even with the huge crowds it was a great day out. Edinburgh itself is such a beautiful city and we can't wait to explore it more....once the festival crowds disappear.
Last weekend we headed to Oban which is a lovely fishing village north west of Glasgow. The train journey there was amazing travelling past Loch Lomond, castles & of our course the mountains. From Oban we caught the ferry to Isle of Mull and onwards to Iona which is the resting place of Macbeth and other Scottish Kings. Oban is famous for it's seafood and it didn't disappoint - we had the best fish n chips watching the sunset and had a couple of beers at the pub. Mingled with some friendly locals - on the way home Thomas declared he had only understood about 20% of the conversation. But he did a lot of nodding .......that accent can be really hard to follow at times. The next day we visited local castles and had more incredible seafood - mussels, crayfish & scallops.
We were surprisingly glad to arrive back in the UK for one night - it is amazing how easy life is in an English speaking country. Our overnight stay in Luton at Easyhotel was just fine - we had a really spacious room (well, for EasyHotel) with even foot room at the end of the bed and we could both fit in the bathroom at the same time !!! We were stoked.
Picked up our hire car and headed south west towards Kilkenny - well partly in search of a brewery, but that was non-existent. However, Kilkenny has a mighty fine castle with gorgeous lawns and had a really medieval feel to it. We stayed at a great B&B just out of town and did a great afternoon country walk - complete with rolling hills, fresh air (a bit stinky at times with the cows) and stone wall fences.
We visited Kells Priory which was an amazing 12th century monastic site. There was us and another couple there - so it was pretty special and worth the effort.
Following day we headed towards the Ring of Kerry - a famous peninsular but it wasn't as touristy as we thought it would be..... It had spectular scenery that you would only expect from Ireland - we took the long way through roads that motorhomes should never be allowed (slight road rage - not really...) but it was pretty amazing.
Our weekend in Ireland had some reasonably big sporting events in both hurling & gaelic football. We were able to catch the hurling quarter final game at a local pub, which was really quite good - very fast paced, a mix of hockey, AFL & La cross. Both sports are still amenteur in Ireland - so these guys get up and go to work each Monday. That is pure passion......and the gaelic game in Dublin had a crowd of 80,000 +.......
We spent the night at Cahirciveen on the Ring of Kerry - it was hosted by a lovely local lass named Mary - a woman of very, very few words and those words spoken were open to interpretation. However, she did encourage us to take the Skellig Rocks tour the following day, which will be hard to forget.
Established in 800AD by monks - it is basically a rock 13kms from remote Southern Ireland - a place where you wonder why & especially how they established a monestary? However, the dry wall (i.e. no mortar) bee-hive looking structures are still existing - see photos and you will what we mean.....amazing!!! We were also lucky enough to see some puffins & seals along the way!
Next was Doolin which is a small town close to the famous Cliffs of Moher. It had only a few pubs - but they had great traditonal music and we had a great night.
Dublin was our final stop in Ireland - what a great city! We went to Riverdance on our first night (2 dancing events....what is happening to us!). It was excellent - the music & of course the dancing was great....even Thomas was up clapping!
Did all the touristy things in Dublin - the Dublin Castle (which had an excellent tour), the churches, the Temple Bar and of course the Guinness Storehouse. Finished off the night with some local Irish comedy - Mauve (how Irish) was great!!
Will leave you with a bit of trivia......did you know how the Guinness Book of Records begun? (we didn't). The Managing Director of Guinness way back when, was out shooting and missed a bird - back at the local pub he was discussing what the fastest game bird was......there was bit of a debate. A few years later, there was a similar discussion after another fruitless afternoon shooting. He assumed that the same arguments would be taking place all over the world, so the Guinness Book of Records was born and has never looked back....
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is a great city to walk around - it is pretty flat and not as hot, so we did a fair amount on foot. The city's famous architect, Gaudi, is a huge influence on Barcelona. We visited Parc Guell, Casa Batllo & La Sagrada Familia and the various tourist points in between. La Sagrada is probably Barcelona's most famous landmark - construction began in 1882 and it still isn't finished. We stupidly paid 10 euros each to go inside - but it is a contruction zone - we took photos hoping one day we would return and it would be complete (that is expected in 2020). That is 20 euros we wished we never spent - oh well!
We had a good hostel - only a few rooms but a really good bunch of fellow travellers and a nice communal area. There was Mustafa & his brother from Turkey, who were in Spain to PARTY and were heading to Ibiza (you could imagine) ; some arty muso Swedes and some nerds from Perth (they were Thomas' mates - ha ha). Went to the famous Mercat de la Boqueria (local produce market) and bought some great food to cook - it tasted so good. We think it really wasn't our cooking, but the fact that it was home cooked.
The other nights we ate out - there are so many restaurants and bars in the city it is really hard to choose where to go - but walking around the Old Quarter is fun anyway. We did several trips up & down the Las Ramblas - plenty of character and heaps of street theatre (well there were heaps of statue type people, if you call that theatre!).
Did a walk to the marina & beach - we were luckier than the Swedish couple at our hostel, who had there bag with keys taken from the beach. Mind you it was taken at about 4 in the morning and we were woken up at about 6am by their frantic knocks (they had an early flight & had to get to the airport). Lucky they were nice huh!!!
That is the end of Spain - off to London Luton for a night and lucky for Thomas we are staying at EasyHotel again in a small room, this time without a window. He can hardly wait and he is thinking about chopping his feet off in order to fit into the bed.....
Location: Valencia, Spain
The bus ride from Granada to Valencia was our big travel day 9 hours. However, this was made bearable by the nice scenery and ended up being a relaxing day really. On our trip we crossed the mountains and ended up on the Mediterranean coast which we followed for about 3 hours.
Valencia is a really good looking city Spains 3rd biggest, the home of paella & also the Vatican recognized Holy Grail supposedly used in the Last Supper. All very impressive
We had an easy day walked around this nice city and headed out to the beach area on the Med coast for dinner for some authentic paella. Our restaurant was right on the beach and a storm came across that evening so it was really beautiful watching it. Paella was really good and it was a great atmosphere with the local Saturday night crowd all dining out!
We have just arrived in Barcelona wow, is it busy and happening. We have only walked around La Rambla this evening, but so many groovy restaurants, bars & shops
it is going to be fun!!
Adios for now