Archive for September, 2013

Back to South Africa

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Plane boarding shortly, so the holiday is officially over. On the plus it’s a a
Airbus A380-800 🙂

Update: We’re home safe in one piece. The return into SA for passports and customs was quick and painless.

Cutty Sark

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Today was Tom’s birthday so he took a day off and we went through to see the Cutty Sark. It was a really surprising experience due to the way they had preserved the ship. They built a dry dock around it and suspended it in mid air so you can walk underneath it as well as through the decks. The information points inside were, ah, informative and they had plenty of items you could pickup and touch rather than just stare at through glass.

We had lunch afterward and then set off to meet Nicola, Richard and Nicolene in Leicester square for an early dinner. We killed some time beforehand in Waterstone’s. Bookstores here are just in a different league.

It was really great to catchup again with old friends. Pity that Renier couldn’t make it due to work commitments 🙁

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Warwick Castle

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

We took a trip out to Warwick castle with Tom and Mikey. It’s setup really well as a family destination. There are a few events throughout the day. We got to see an archery demonstration as well as falconry.

There are some really nice views from the towers and it’s very scenic around the castle. Another great outing 🙂

When we got back to the house Tom realized he’d left the keys inside. I climbed over the back fence and managed to get in through one of the windows and open the front door. Something that’s generally not possible in South Africa with burglar bars, alarms and armed response!

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Ons gooi kole in Londen

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

After saying goodbye to Nico, Angela and Ava it was back to Tom. We helped a little with the gardening and I cooked some rump steak. Nothing fancy just a weber and really thin steaks. Brits really don’t understand what a steak should look like. I made the most of it and they came out nicely. We also found some interesting veggie sausages for Salome which were quite spicy.

Other than that it was playtime with Mikey and later on a movie. If you haven’t seen Oblivion don’t bother, it’s junk. Not sure how IMDB scores it 7.0?

Salome found her Oyster card so at least that mystery is solved. Yay!

Tomorrow we will be doing some sightseeing with Tom and Mikey.

Breaking bread with friends

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

This morning was a bit of a disaster. On the way to the station Salome couldn’t find her Oyster card so when we got to the station we had to buy a single ticket. Then when we got off and boarded the connecting train I thought I’d lost my card but then found a card in my bag. So now I’m not sure if I lost my card or not and if the card in my bag was Salome’s.

We got to Euston and discovered it was raining. So from 30 degrees the day before to pouring rain. Welcome to London! We then went looking for a prepaid UK SIM but between stores not having stock of nano SIMs or being completely unwilling to help we got nowhere.

We then went to find some breakfast. After placing our orders and receiving our drinks the manager came to apologise for discovering that they didn’t have any yoghurt, nor could they source any from the surrounding stores. So we had to opt for something else.

We found a small break in the rain and walked to the British library. Entry is free except for the special exhibitions and there is plenty to see.

Then it was back to the station to purchase rail tickets so we could visit Nico. We opted for the quicker Virgin trains and after some help from friendly staff about which tickets to purchase we set off to find the platform. After some confusing ping pong between platform sections we eventually got to the correct platform. The signs outside only show the midlands schedule and the Virgin schedule is only on their platform. So if you don’t know the setup you can’t find your train!

Once on the train it was panic time because the hotspot I used at the coffee shop wasn’t authenticating anymore even though I was connected which meant I couldn’t let Nico know what train we were on. The saving grace was my Germany SIM on roaming in my old phone with 9% battery life and enough airtime to send a SMS. Phew!

When we met a smiling Nico at the station they day improved dramatically. After a lovely lunch with freshly baked bread he went back to work and we went out with Angela and Ava for a walk around Willen Lake which was really enjoyable. We spent the rest of the afternoon entertaining (or was it us being entertained) Ava. I had some fun with the camera and grabbed a few nice pictures of her.

When Nico got home I helped him move a new mattress upstairs. It was a bit tight but we got it up the staircase eventually. Angela cooked us a wonderful dinner after which Nico demonstrated his newfound piano skills and I helped him murder a few classics with some off key singing. Fortunately Angela came to the rescue with her amazing voice. Great to have talent!

Excellent ending to what started as a disastrous day. Nothing better than to spend some time out with friends! 😀

PS. I caught a huge rain spider in our bedroom while typing this up. Quick draw on the waste paper basket allowed me to catch and deposit it out the window.

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London

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

So after a 45min delay in Prague we landed in a hot London. Border control was insane with huge queues and I’d misunderstood the instructions about landing cards (so we didn’t fill one in on the plane). Fortunately the people were reasonably friendly and we were given cards to fill in and got past border control. Then it was sardine time in rush hour on the tubes. Aargh! Eventually we arrived safe and sound at Tom and Henriette.

Tomorrow is a little bit of walk about then it’s off to visit some friends.

Off to London

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

This morning after breakfast with did a quick bit of shopping. There are a lot of souvenir shops all stocking very similar items. A quick price comparison shows that things like t-shirts can differ vastly in price, but the less popular items are about the same. The bulk of shops are very credit card friendly, unlike Germany where it is cash or specific German electronic cards only.

We had a small challenge in that our connecting flight to London came with a 23kg luggage limit, where Emirates was 30kg. A bit of creative hand luggage shuffling saw both bags coming in under the limit, so we can load up when leaving London 🙂

We are now past the half way mark of our holiday. Time flies when you are having fun.

Prague sightseeing

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Today we went back to old town to book a bike tour for the afternoon and then took a walk up to the castle complex. The weather was much better than the previous day, so no need for a rain coat 😉 The place really is massive and jam packed with tourists. After wondering through the complex we took a different route back down over the Charles bridge and found a place for lunch. We then took a walk up to Wenceslas square. At that point we decided to head back to the hotel for a break before the afternoon cycle which would be 2-3 hours long. We took a quick walk through the mall below our hotel and discovered a pet shop with snakes, chameleons, turtles and lizards on sale.

The bike ride was really great. There was some overlap with the sights we saw in the morning, but the added knowledge of a tour guide made things a lot more interesting. We also got to see and learn quite a few new things. Riding through parts of the city were a little hairy having to negotiate cars, pavements, pedestrians, dogs and other cyclists, but we made it through unscathed. There was a really fast downhill through the park near the castle which was quite a rush.

After the bike ride we met up with Martin (a local I’d met through work) for dinner. I got horribly lost by relying on trip advisor rather than the map to get to the restaurant, but we go there eventually. It can be very tricky finding your way around through twisty streets and tall buildings (and it’s worse at night).

At the hotel we said farewell to Stean and Jacques, who are off to Bratislava at crack of dawn.

Thursday we head off to London.

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Back to Prague

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

We headed back to Prague early this morning. It looked cold and miserable but seemed to clear up as the day progressed. Sylvia’s dad was kind enough to pick us up at the flat and take us, luggage and all, to the train station. We caught the first train to Bad Schandau. When we got there we first used the ticket machine to see what the ticket to the first station over the Czech border would cost, then went inside to the information to double check. The lady behind the counter understood a little English and helped us purchase the connecting ticket we needed in addition to the initial ticket we had bought that morning. This was substantially cheaper than what we had managed to conjure on the ticket machine. Once over the border the NEW online tickets we’d bought the night before took us through to Prague.

As we pulled out of the train station in Neustadt I realised that I had left my rain coat in a shopping bag along with the “padkos” in the car. Oh well. Let’s hope the rain is now over 🙂

We got to our hotel a little early, but they allowed us to store our luggage while we went to the town centre. We took a walk around before booking a communism and nuclear bunker tour. It entailed a bit of history of the country as well as a tour of a Cold War era nuclear bunker. We often complain about the circumstances in our own country, thinking the grass is greener elsewhere, but this certainly gave me a bit of perspective to take home.

After the tour we headed back to the hotel to check in. The metro in Prague is prettying easy to navigate and they certainly make it easier for English speakers to travel. Most people you encounter understand a little English and most of the signage also has English.

We then headed back to the old town where Stean and I did a beer tour. I am now officially a Czech beer expert in training. Nogal! After a quick bite to eat we walked down to the Vltava river to take some pictures.

Tomorrow we hope to see a few more sights as well as take a scenic bike tour around the city.

Bastei & Königstein

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

This morning was another early start. We were looking forward to fresh treats from the bakery, but discovered to our dismay that they were closed on Mondays (huh?). So we made do with leftovers and got out the house a little earlier so we could pop in at the bakery next to our bus stop. They were open so we got some sandwiches and some pastries for the road.

We met up with the gang at the train station and traveled to Bastei. Bastei was an absolute treat, towering rock formations surrounded by tall trees and almost 360 degree views. We had a nice easy walk through the formations and trees down to the Elbe river where we crossed by cable ferry to Rathen. From Rathen we caught a train to Königstein where we stopped for lunch before heading up the hill to the Königstein fortress. Unfortunately when we got there it started raining, which put a bit of a damper on scenic photography, but we made do with walking around between the inner building exhibitions and when there was a small gap in the rain we headed to the wall to grab some pictures. It’s really hard to describe the sheer size of the place and the views from up top. I can only recommend you take the opportunity to see both Bastei and Königstein if it presents itself (you need a day for both).

Tonight we pack for the trip back to Prague. We’ve got some options for city tours lined up and will see what falls into place when we get there.

To my horror I discovered tonight that the return train ticket from Germany to Prague is for the 5th and not the 3rd of September. Because the first leg has been used the ticket is non-refundable or exchangeable, so we will have to purchase new tickets. Scheiße!

 

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