Category Archives: Travel Stories

Part 2 of my trip to the QLD

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The story continued …

Monday 9th – We woke up and made an early start – finished packing the car – was one very full car when we were finished and then left.  The drive up to Cambroon (Hinterland) took about 2 hours.  We stopped for lunch on the way at Melany.  From Melany to Cambroon was a really pretty drive – we were so high up and the bush was just so lovely.  Our campsite was so cool – and we were the only people there!  We spent the afternoon setting up our tent and getting unpacked.  We drove to Kenilworth – the nearest town and had a coffee before heading back to our campsite and starting the fire. The night was super fun – being around an open fire is just so nice.  We drank tea, cooked dinner, listened to music, toasted marshmallows, stared at the stars, filled our hot water bottles and put them in our sleeping bags, had baileys hot chocolates and just enjoyed being out in the bush!  Slept really well – I think we were so prepared for the cold that we didn’t really feel it!!

Tues 10th – The campsite was home to deer so in the morning the campsite owners took us over to see them getting fed and we were able to hand feed little pete who was 7th months old and so cute!  Gideon the goat was very old and funny.  I learnt lots about deer – like the fact that they lose their antlers every year and they grow back with one more horn so you can count how old they are!!  We also got to see the horses being fed! After breakfast we drove along the Obi-Obi road which was one amazing drive.  Never before had I been scared that a road could be so steep that the car might actually roll back!  It was so steep and we kept going past signs saying 5% increase, 10% increase even 16% increase!!  But it was totally worth it as the views were amazing!! (at least for me – Claudette was doing an amazing job driving!!)  We were just so high!  We stopped at Mapelton Falls, which had a really cool lookout point that was suspended over such a big drop!  We drove through Mapelton and shopped at Monetville, which was a beautiful historic town with so many nice boutique shops.  We drove back to the campsite as the sun was setting and started our fire again, we had another fun-filled night around the campfire although it started to rain while we were having dinner and we held up for a little while but then our fire died out so we retreated to the tent where we stayed up late talking and listening to music.

 

Wed 11th – Well we had one rainy night but managed to stay dry and warm!  We packed up early and drove up to Eumundi which was about 45 mins north.  We had a stop at Kondalilla National Park and walked down to a beautiful waterfall.  Drove on to the Eumundi Markets which were really cool – I could not believe how many people were there for a Wednesday not in school holidays!  There were just so many stalls … couldn’t resist all the cool things – bought some tea and a few presents.  Met up with one of Claudette’s friends for a coffee before walking around the other side of the markets, saw an albino snake!  They closed at 1:30pm so we drove across to Maroochydore and went to the beach (because as Claudette says “you can’t come to the sunshine coast and not see the beach!”) it was a bit cloudy when we first got there but the sun came out soon after we got there and it was so lovely and definitely a good detour to make!   (The water was ‘refreshing’ ).  We drove back home – unpacked, and watched the movie ‘leap year’ and reminisced about Ireland!!  (we totally went to some of the places that were in the movie such as the Rock of Dunnmase!!)  Had dinner with her family – got recipe for boboite.

Thurs 12th – Was a sad day to think that I had to go back to Newcastle.  Had breakfast and packed up, then Claudette dropped me off at the airport – it was busy as some flights were delayed and it was a little hectic checking in but I made it onto the plane before it took off.  Was pretty tied by the time I got back to my house …  it was a great holiday and so great to see Claudette.

Let the adventures continue!

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So I have been back for 6 months now and while I miss the UK terribly, I am slowly re-adjusting to life back in Newcastle.  Life has been exciting which has made me realise that you don’t only need to be overseas for adventures to happen, so I have decided to post about my adventures here in Australia!!

It’s hard to believe that it is once again mid-semester break, and that a whole semester has gone by.  This time last year I remember getting organised to leave and start my semester abroad.

I have had a few prac days during this holiday period – two observation days at a voice clinic and two days at the John Hunter Hospital.  They were all really interesting – my favourite was the paediatric feeding day where we went up to the neo-natal intensive care unit and saw some incredibly tiny babies.

Lucy came up for a visit in the first week of the holidays, it was really nice showing her around Newcastle.  We drove up to see Bethany and Dan in Port Macquaire and stayed the weekend.  They took us to a beautiful mountain lookout called North Brother where the view was amazing and stretched such a long way.  (My ears were popping so much on the steep road incline!)  We saw a koala sleeping in the tree above our parked car which got us all pretty excited.

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Saw Snow White and the Huntsman at the cinema (have to love country towns which will hold off the start of a movie for 40mins while they let everyone in the line buy their ticket.) We visited their church on the Sunday morning and went to the town green and walked along the breakwater (really cool painted stones).  It was fun spending time with my 2 sisters.  Lucy and I drove back Monday stopping in at Medowie Macadamia Farm and had macadamia lattes.  Have been reading the Anne of Green Gables series and loving them all over again.

Lucy and I then spent 2 nights in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains.  We wanted to stay somewhere that complimented winter and our guest house definitely did as the fire was perfect to curl up infront of.  We drove straight to Echo point on Wednesday morning but were met with a heavy white fog.  We had no idea what we should have been looking at as the fog was so thick but there were still lots of fellow tourists standing at the lookout point taking photos.

We decided to explore the town while it was so misty so walked around the main street.  Went into the Paragon Café (so fancy) to have a look around and had a coffee at another café.  We then checked into our room which was so pretty.  We had tea.  Had an awesome dinner at a café called ‘Common Ground’ which had been recommended to us by a couple of people – basically the inside of the café looked like a treehouse with branches everywhere and the tables and seats fitting right it.  It was good food as well and we enjoyed the atmosphere of the place.  We watched Northanger Abbey that night and got excited/confused over who was the good guys/bad guys. (I love how Lucy’s taste in movies has expanded to include old classic period dramas so I have someone to watch them with now!!)

Next morning we had a sleep in and enjoyed a relaxing breakfast in the dinning room (mood music, plenty of teapots to choose from) and planned our day.  We drove to Scenic World where we bought a ticket on their sky-train down into the bushland.  We then did a walk up to the waterfall and had our packed lunches sitting amongst the trees and the birds.  We did the suggested round-trip walk which took us to the cable car which gave us a fantastic view on the trip up. We drove around the cliff rd to Leura – stunning views of the cliffs.  Needing a bit of energy after our day we had a coffee at echo point (this time we could actually see the 3 sisters  which were so beautiful)  the fog kept coming and going so quickly – one minute it would be crystal clear and you could see for ages and then you would look down and take a sip of coffee and all of a sudden see the clouds engulf the basin so it was white wash!!  We got all dressed up and went to the Fairmont Hotel and had a gin and tonic in the Embers bar (feeling very classy) on our way back to our room we had thai and chatted late into the night.

Our last morning we had another yummy relaxing breakfast and one last look at the view before driving to Leura again.  We browsed the mains street shops and then walked to a teapot museum/cafe.  It was crazy – there were just so many teapots everywhere!!!  It was a house and each room had 3 or 4 shelves which went around all the walls near the ceiling and these were filled with teapots!  Then in the actual rooms they had cabinets of more teapots and then there were rooms of teapots for sale!  They also had a tea room with lots of nice tables set out for tea.  It was lovely looking around but hard to choose a favourite as there were just so many! Then we decided to hit the road so we drove back to Sydney where I dropped Lucy off at the station.  A brilliant holiday with a most brilliant sister.

Pesaro with Vanessa and Felicity

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My journey to Pesaro was complicated by the fact that there was a serious amount of snow the previous night which meant by the time I got to the train station in the morning there were hundreds of people all waiting around as trains kept on being delayed and then cancelled.  Unfortunately mine was one of the trains that got cancelled so took a while to figure out what I should do as the line for the help desk was incredibly long!  Was thinking that I might have to stay an extra night in Florence but as forecasts were for even more snow so in the end hopped on the next train bound for Pesaro – luckily the guard were very lenient about tickets because of all the cancelled trains.  There was just so much snow the entire journey – so pretty!  I got into Pesaro about 4 hours later than initially expected and was met at the station by Vanessa and Felicity.  The next few days it was snowing and so cold outside that we spent more of the time at Vanessa’s house with her family and going on short day trips to nearby towns.  Some highlights include:

–          Getting taught how to play ‘Briscola’ by Vanessa, Claudia and their mum.  It was a fun and very vocal card game which used Italian cards which were a bit different to our playing cards.  It felt a little like 500 in the way of playing with a partner to win rounds with a trump suit. Vanessa mum was so patient with me in explaining the rules and playing with me in the mornings so I eventually kind-of got the hang of it.  I bought my own pack of cards to take home with me and can’t wait to play again.

–          Walking around Pesaro (a beach city) while it was covered in snow!  We kept slipping all over the place.  We went down to the beach and it was such an awesome but strange experience to be walking along a beach that has snow on it!

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–          Enjoying the many cafes and coffee types in each town we visited.  Some nights we went out for a drink and the drink was more like a dessert!  Seriously so many ways to have coffee!!!

–          Enjoying ‘Italian Breakfasts’ which consisted of tea or Orzo (a hot barley drink) and dipping biscuits and then coffee.  Delicious but a weird feeling to be eating biscuits in the morning!!

–          Going to a supermarket.  We spent ages looking at all the different foods.  They had 2 isles of breakfast biscuits, 3 isles of pasta (seriously so many different types!!) and a whole isle of different oils etc!!  So fun just browsing!!

–          Having my hair cut at a local hairdresser.  Vanessa helped translate what I wanted.

–          Having amazing cooked meals by Vanessa’s mother – always delicious and fun family times – her Uncle sometimes came over and her family was always there for meals.  The best Italian food I have ever had!

–          Experiencing the regional trains and the way they can be delayed for at least 90 mins so we were often stuck in the little towns we visited!!

–          Seeing how Italians buy takeaway pizza … I have never in my life seen such a big pizza box!!

It was such a pity that Pina couldn’t make it (there was more snow down south which was really effecting the trains) but it was such a great time to spend with Vanessa and Felicity and to experience Italy in a day to day situation, her whole family was so hospitable and welcoming and I hope they come and visit me in Australia!!

 

Freiburg with Christiane 26th-30th January

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My journey to Germany started off with a morning where nothing went right … I woke up at 4:30am after a terrible night of sleep but managed to get out the door by 5am.  I had to walk to Wimbledon Station and it was fine when I started out but after about 3 mins of walking it started POURING with rain.  I was thinking of calling a taxi as I was now carrying my heavy bag in the rain but couldn’t find my mobile!   I was completely soaked by the time I got there.  Then I tried to pick up my prepaid ticket but couldn’t because 1. I couldn’t find my travel card which you need to insert to prove you paid for it and 2. The machines were both frozen!  I was starting to panic as time was running out before my train was leaving so I ended up just jumping on the train with no ticket!!  Got a new ticket at the changing station but still couldn’t find my travelcard.  Got to the airport but it was super slow going check-in and going through security which meant I was rushed getting onto the plane!  I slept most of the way on the plane and landed in Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg.  I had missed the bus into Freiburg by 10 mins so had to wait around for 50 mins!!!

BUT once I got on the bus my day turned around.  It was a nice relaxing ride into Freiburg and once I orientated myself and bought a map I was on my way.  Was able to store my luggage at the train station and then walked into the middle of the town.  The map had a suggested walking route which I followed which took me past all the main buildings.  Freiburg was such a lovely town – there were no cars in the main section of town just pedestrian streets and trams going everyway.  I was a little scared of crossing the roads at first as there were so many trams but the locals were just running out in front of them I was surprised no one got hit!  The buildings in Freiburg were all very beautiful – big windows and window shutters, window boxes with flowers, tile murials on the footpath, narrow winding streets, so many cafes and shops and all the buildings all painted so colourfully!  The Munster cathedral was so big and in the middle of the town in an open square with cobblestones and market stalls in the mornings (they were just packing away by the time I got there) Went inside and it felt just as big as it looked – so many stain-glass windows and organ music playing.

I walked around and went in a few shops and had a coffee then met up with Christiane at Apotheke at the Bertholdsbrunnen which was a busy tram intersection and apparently ‘the meeting place’ in Freiburg – and it was – there were so many people standing at every corner.  Christiane found me and it was so great to see her!!  After the initial excitement of being in FREIBURG with CHRISTIANE she showed me an undercover food-hall with all sorts of cuisines and then we went to a traditional German restaurant which had a great atmosphere and was rather busy.  Christiane translated the menu for me and I chose a dish which was lentils, these German noodles and sausages!!  It was an enormous meal and we laughed once it was in front of me as it was just so much food!!  I could only eat half of it but it was delicious!!  We drove back to Christiane’s house – it was a short 10 min drive – she is in an amazing location … top floor of a beautiful house which faces directly towards the black forest!  We sat and drank herbal tea and had dark chocolate and marzipan and chatted until late about L’Abri and everything that had been happening since we had met at L’Abri.

The next morning Christiane left early for work so I slept in and then had breakfast of tea and bread with various spreads overlooking her beautiful view.  Tried to find my travel card by unpacking all my luggage but had no luck.  Checked my emails, read  my book then went on a walk which Christiane had recommended which went up to the entrance of the forest, through the trees and then down a gorge with a stream on one side.  The walk was so pretty – the trees were just so tall and straight and it was a much cooler and damp temperature.  Christiane came home and we had a vegetable curry for lunch.  In the afternoon we caught the tram into Freiburg and walked around the streets and Christiane showed me places that my map had not mentioned like cute cafes, small streams and nice open plazas. It made such a difference going around with a local who could tell me all about the buildings and lifestyle in Freiburg.  We had dinner at the international food hall but I again had German food: German noodles baked with cheese and leek, again delicious and filling.  It was so busy – everyone standing around tall round tables and eating and there was a live band playing blues music which added to the atmosphere.  On the way home we stopped at a supermarket and bought some food and wine.  That night we looked at all our L’Abri photos and swapped them on our computers.  It was fun laughing at the funny ones and remembering again all the fun times.

We had a sleep in on Saturday and spent the morning having a long relaxing breakfast of porridge made from blended buckwheat, banana and apple, bread with goats cheese and jam, ‘bretzels (soft pretzels which were amazing!) oranges, coffee but made from grains but tasted like coffee.  It was all very different but yummy and it was nice just enjoying a long slow breakfast, chatting away and enjoying the view.  We then went into the city to the Augustine Museum which had been reopened in 2010.  There was a special exhibition on the Polesia region of the Ukraine – all about their culture and traditional way of life which is still the way they live now.  I had a little book which had all the English translations of the displays which made it easier. I loved the traditional clothing and footwear and household items but they also had furniture and tools and so many photos.  They had a short film showing the photographers going in and experiencing the world of the Polesia people.  (at the end there was a funny line from that the Polesia lady said – about the photographers leaving – ‘We will miss you for 3 or 4 days, we got used to having you around.’)  After seeing the exhibition we went and had a coffee break at a café called ‘Manna’ which very trendy.  Then we tackled the museum.  It was a cool mix of things to see – the top floor was all about the Black forest, so paintings of the forest or paintings by people from the Black Forest region.  Then the rest of the museum held relics, paintings etc from the Muster Cathedral.  From the 3rd floor you could look out over a balcony and on the 2nd floor sticking out from the wall were 8 ‘water spitters’ which were horizontal statues of gargoyles and animals.  They were called water spitters because they had an open half pipe which caught the rain from the drain and it ran off the statues faces.  You could also see down to the 1st floor which had 6 extremely large statues of some of the apostles and saints.  It just looked really cool seeing the different levels.  The ground floor had lots of religious scene paintings and a treasury with lots of gold and gemstone relics. We spent 4 hours in there but the time just flew – it didn’t feel like it!  That night we went to Christiane’s Aunt and Uncle’s house for dinner.  They were both so lovely and welcoming and spoke English for the whole night for me.  It was a lovely night and it was great to hear their stories as they had been missionaries in Uganda.  Back at Christiane’s we had another late night – more talking, tea and marzipan!

Sunday morning we woke up to snow!!  Out the window the view had completely changed – the forest had a light dusting of snow and it had settled on the street and houses and looked so pretty!  It was still lightly snowing while we had breakfast and when we drove into Freiburg. We went to Christiane’s Church– the service was all in German but I recognised the melody of 2 songs so I sang along in English.  It was funny – even though it was in a completely different language and country the service was so similar to back in Australia, the announcements on the screen, the worship band, the welcome and few jokes at the start, the way they introduce the speaker by asking them a few serious and then funny questions.  I met a few of Christiane’s friends but we didn’t stay too long as we had to get changed (ie put on thermals and more layers) and had a quick lunch at a Turkish place around the corner – an amazing felafel wrap – and then we caught the train up to the to middle of the black forest! The ride took about 30 mins and we took with us Christiane’s red toboggan!!    As we ascended the snow got thicker and at our stop there was just SO MUCH SNOW! We walked down to Lake Titisee – and it was mostly frozen over! (there was a small section where all these ducks were crammed in) it was so beautiful.  At the Museum yesterday we had seen a painting of the lake in summer but it looked completely different.  We walked for about 4kms along the lake and then up through the forest to the next town and station.  It was such a winter wonderland – so beautiful and also so still and quiet.  We did a practice toboggan ride down a small side path – mainly for me as the last time I was in a toboggan was a long time ago. (two young boys apparently shouted in German ‘boring’ as I went down this tiny incline and Christiane had to explain that I was Australian and not an experienced tobogganer)  It was so nice walking in fresh white and soft snow and pulling the toboggan behind.  There were a few people we saw who were also walking or cross country skiing which looked fun.  When we got to the next snow village we asked directions to a good tobogganing hill and then we spent about ½ hour going down this massive hill – together on the toboggan at first and then I tried myself but was terrible at steering.  It was such a fun afternoon!!  We then had a warm drink at a cute looking chalet with an open fire before catching the train back.  There were so many people there with their skis who had obviously just caught the train up to go skiing for the afternoon.  That night we called Cait in Chicago and had a quick talk to her and then looked at more photos.  I had such an amazing time in Freiburg with Christiane – I hope she comes to visit me soon!

Weekend in Wales

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Claudette and I spent 2 nights in Wales together.  We both arrived from different locations (I had spent 2 nights in London with Uncle Jeff and Aunty Susan where I was introduced to ‘The Newcastle Song’ by Bob Hudson – youtube it!! and had a delicious dinner out at a local Italian restaurant)

I arrived before Claudette because her train door didn’t open at the station so she had to take another train back so I had an extra hour so I browsed the Visitors Info Centre.   We caught the bus out to Tintern from Chepstow which took about 20 mins – it was a pretty drive and we ended up in Tintern where a lovely old man told us which stop we should get off at in order to walk to our B&B (yes we treated ourselves)  Tinter was really small which followed a stretch of the river Wye so everything looked onto it.  Our B&B was so cute – our room had 2 beautiful beds and was decorated so nicely in a country cottage style.  Our window gave us a great view of the river and of Tintern Abbey which was down the other end of the river.  We unpacked and relaxed in our luxury room and then went for a walk up the river.  We went past the St Michael’s church to the old railway station and then up across the Brigweig Bridge.  It was just so green and fresh.  Walked back towards Tintern Abbey as it was getting dark which meant we saw all the B&B’s gradually turn on their lights and saw the Abbey all lit up.  We had dinner at a nice pub nearby and stayed there for a while just talking.  We walked home in the mist which was cool and watched Slumdog Millionaire on TV.

The next morning we woke up feeling refreshed and were met with a delicious full cooked breakfast by the owners of the B&B.  Played with their 5 new puppies which were just so fun.  We walked around the shops in Tintern – including the Tintern Mill and browsed all the gift shops and then caught the bus into Chepstow where we went to the Chepstow museum which was very cute and then spent the rest of the day looking at shops, having a nice afternoon tea in a cute tea room, walking up around the big Chepstow Castle and tiny winding streets.  It was such a nice relaxing day.

Had another beautiful breakfast the next morning and another play with the puppies (who we found out were worth 1000 pounds each!!) and then went and explored Tintern Abbey.  I had no idea who big it was – I had assumed it was just a church but it was a whole community!!  It was all in ruins and there were only walls left but it was fun walking around and learning what went on in there. We took some fun photos – trying to jump at the same time to show just how big the abbey was compared to us even when we jumped really high.  It was a very cool place.  Unfortunately because the buses were so infrequent we missed the one going back to Chepstow but there turned out to be a big tree that had fallen over last night which blocked the road to Chepstow so we had to catch a different bus which took us along the detour.  It took about 40 mins but it was so relaxing and it took us up really high so we had some great views of the green landscape and countryside which was totally worth it.  In Chepstow Claudette wanted a ‘sticky toffee muffin’ but said ‘Oh I’ll get a stick toffy muddin’ which was just so hilarious at the time and we laughed for a bit and then because she had her heavy backpack on I went in and bought it.  I was so hard to ask for one – I started cracking up in the middle of ordering so the lady thought I was a complete nutcase!  We caught trains back (I had to buy another ticket as we had missed my first one) we both got off at Newport and then had to say goodbye and get on separate trains – It was quite sad but its not like we are never going to see each other again!)  Got back to London and had a nice cup of tea with Aunty Susan and then dinner when Uncle Jeff came home  Had to shuffle my luggage around a bit and work out what I was taking to Germany so had a late night.

Paris to Leeds

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Had a terrible night sleep – the guy in the bunk above me was such a loud snorer  – rivaled the woman at Stow-in-the-wold!!  (will definitely be buying ear plugs for Italy – just in case)  Had to check out early so we went to Notre Dame and had breakfast in a cafe nearby waiting for it to open. Was a delicious French breakfast (although the cappacino was riddiculously priced at €6.20!)   Had a look inside Notre Dame once it opened – so many stained glass windows which you couldn’t see form the outside but once you were inside it was so colourful.   Had a little trouble finding our tube station but got to the airport in good timing and had lots of time to wait for the plane.  Flight home was uneventful – and got back to Leeds in the afternoon.  Had a nap before going to the last Hall group ever which was pretty sad!  Had a late night at Christina and Claudettes as it was Christina’s last night so we swapped all our photos. 

Paris – Versailles

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Today we went out to see Versailles after a little sleep in – had a ham, cheese, lettuce and egg baguette for breakfast (the bread here is amazing!!!) and caught a quick train out there.  We got in for free as we were living in the EU studying (win!!) and had audioguides which took us around the chataeu.  It was so big and so grand … I loved the state apartments which were so lavish.  I think after studying country houses and visiting quite a few castle and country houses I can say Versaille beats them all!!)  Every ceiling was painted and there were no white or empty spaces on the walls – all were covered with paintings, gold embellishements, mirrors etc  It was just so extreme and the furniture always matched.  The Queens Bedchamber was my favourite – the bed seriously blended into the room as the fabric of the covers, pillows and the bedframe were the same as the wallpaper so you had to look twice!  It was also a ‘social’ bedroom which meant the room was divided by a knee-high fence with the bed on one side and chairs and tables on the others for guests to sit at!!

The Hall of Mirrors was exceptional – so big and open with floor to ceiling windows on one side and the same size mirrors on the other which matched up so the view was reflected onto the other side. (so clever!!)  It was filled with chandiliers and gold furniture.  I was just so blown away but it all!!  Went outside to the gardens and was equally blown away!  It was just such a huge area and you looked straight down this lake that went for ages.  There were  just so many gardens with fountains (which were frozen over it was so cold)and beautifully maintained hedges and trees.  We walked up through the garden which took about 40 mins – we took it in turns to walk by the water or through a garden.  We had lunch by the lake and then walked back – saw a few people from the walking tour (which was really crazy considering the number of people that were at Versailles!)

We slept on the train ride back and got off at the Eiffel Tower and had a hot chocolate while we waited for it to get dark so we could see the tower all lit up.  It was so cool – at 7pm it started its light show which lasted about 10 mins – all glittering and sparkling.  It was so pretty to watch and we got some nice photos of it.  Had a lazy night – played cards, drank tea and then had an early night.

1st January … New Years Day in Edinburgh

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We slept in late again and had trouble finding somewhere that still served breakfast but found a café that was still open.  We then split up again and I went to find the hop-on/off bus as my ticket was still valid for a little bit but as so many streets were closed for the celebrations last night I ended up just using my map to walk around the old town area – past the George Heriot’s School and ‘The Elephant House’ café – both places important to J K Rowling in writing Harry Potter.  It would have been awesome to go into the café and write in my diary – I think I would have written a masterpiece entry but it was so crowded that there were no tables left so I kept walking down to Holyroodhouse Palace, where the royal family lives when they visit Edinburgh.  It was a lovely place but I didn’t go inside.

Instead I took advantage of the blue sky and sunshine and walked up to Arthurs Seat which was in the Holyrood Park.  It was a really lovely walk – a mix of easy and difficult bits, there was no one set path to the top but instead just a lot of worn tracks from previous walkers that led everywhere.  The way I went took a bit over an hour to get to the top – the last bit was really hard as it was climbing up rocks which were slippery as it had started to rain.  But the top was definitely worth it – the view was over the City of Edinburgh (the castle looked so small and far away), the countryside, water and mountains in the distance.  I took some photos and a panoramic video and nearly got blown over it was so windy!!  Played the ‘Where’s Kevin?’ game and saw him up there as well)  It started to get dark and cloudy and rain a bit more do I started my decent – it was very slippery at first but they had a rope chain which everyone was holding onto which made it a bit easier.  The walk down was much shorter but I was semi-following some other people and we went straight down the other side.  However when I got down I realised that I had no idea where I was (except being at the bottom of Arthurs seat) but there was one path that circled the path so I chose a direction and started walking.  I think I chose the long way around but it was a nice walk – there were lots of lakes which were pretty as it got darker and it was nice seeing the silhouettes of people walking down Arthurs seat.

Walked back to the hostel via the Royal Mile which was such a lovely street – cobbled stones and brick shops lining the road with 3 stories of houses on top which made the street seem really close and cosy.  There were archways every so often which were little alleyways with more shops.  Was pretty exhausted by the time I got back, met up with Christina and Claudette and we went down to the closing ceremony for Hogmanay.  There had been the ‘Hogmanay Games’ all day which were all family friendly between the ‘uppies’ and the ‘doonies’ where gold tokens were given to everyone when they participated.  There was a final game at the closing ceremony which we were part of – I was a doonie.  It involved passing a huge beach ball around the crowd.  We didn’t win that game but when they counted all the tokens up the doonies won!!  Had dinner and then had to pack for Skye.

31st December – HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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New Years Eve – We all slept in after the torch procession last night so went to an Irish pub for breakfast.  We then walked around the castle up to Princes street where they were setting up for the street party and through an old graveyard.  We then made our way to an Australian Bar in time to celebrate New Years Eve Sydney Time.  We watched the fireworks on the tv surrounded by so many Australians!!  We stayed for an hour so we could also celebrate Queenslands NYE for Claudette.

I then went and got on a hop-on hop-off bus which really helped me see the city and understand the layout plus gave me an idea of what I wanted to see in more detail.  Went back to the Main street and looked around the shops before meeting up with the others and going to buy some ingredients to cook dinner.  We played Janga with some others staying at the hostel and then got ready to go out (ie put on more layers)  Walked up to the street party around 9:30 and walked around.  It was such a huge area, there were 5 stages with different bands so we would walk up and listen to one for a little while before moving on down the street to another.  There was a ferris wheel so we lined up and finally got on and it was really worth it – we got an incredible veiw of the street and by this time there were so many people that it was so packed and looked like a sea of people.

Afterwards we walked around again but because it was so crowded it was more like being pushed along by the current of people moving.  We found some people from our hostel and started to look for a good place to stand for the fireworks.  We got a great location – right infront of the castle where they were going off (we knew it was going to be good because next to us were all the film and camera crew)  We waited for about 1/2hour trying to stand our ground as it was getting more and more crowded and then it was finally midnight and the fireworks went off!!  They they lasted about 10 mins and were so beautiful!  They seemed to stay in the sky for so long before fading away – they were just so big and colourful and it was so cool to be outside watching them go off!!  I tried to take a video and a few photos but they don’t really capture how cool it was.

After the fireworks the crowds dispersed and we slowly made our way back to the hostel, it was a nice walk and it was a happy atmosphere of everyone celebrating the new year.  Sat in the ‘posh lounge’ of the hostel with Christina and then Claudette and we stayed up til about 3am just talking and drinking tea.  All up such an amazing way to spend New Years Eve!!

 

30th December – Edinburgh: Start of Hogmanay

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Caught a train from Kings cross station to Edinburgh – took about 4 hours so I did a lot of reading and sleeping and sneakily watching the movie that the girl next to me was watching on her laptop (although some bits I wish I hadn’t seen – so violent!! I think it was the Swedish film ‘The girl who played with fire’)  The train was very full – so many people were standing in the isles and the carriage ends.  Got to Edinburgh and tried to find the hostel but as I was walking it started pouring with rain so I quickly hailed a cab and got taken to our hostel ‘The castle rock hostel’ which was in the most brilliant location – 3 mins walk from the centre of town and only 1 min walk from the castle.  We had an amazing view of the castle all lit up each night from our window!!  Met up with Kevin, Claudette and Christina and we walked down the main street and bought torches which were made of rolled wax for the night torch lit procession to kick off the Hogmanay celebrations.  We then sat in a café and had coffee and caught up – telling each other about our Christmases and holidays since we were all together last in Ireland.

The torch procession started at 6:30 – everyone gathered in the high street.  As we were having coffee close by we were in the 2nd row to begin with.  We waited about ½ hour – but got to have our photo with a Viking who was part of the procession and heard the bagpipe and drum marching band play so the time went quickly.

There was a little speech and then they started lighting everyone’s torches using blow torches at first and getting people to pass the flame along.  It was such a cool sight to see the whole street gradually light up!  They said that they had sold 6500 torches!!  Then everyone started walking from the High street to Carlton Hill which took about an hour and a half.  Loads of people joined the procession and they said that over 20000 people were up on the hill by the end.  There was a formal opening of Hogmanay speech and then fireworks!  It was such a cool night and left high expectations for the next night – NYE.  Getting home was a little crazy as there were so many people but we stopped on the way at an Italian place for dinner.  A wonderful start to the New Year celebrations.