Saturday, December 31, 2005

back to London, off to Newquay

On Thursday night we said goodbye to beautiful Edinburgh and Scotland, the new friends we'd made on the Haggis tour, and Sueanne and Pete who are staying a few days longer; and travelled by National Express coach back down to London on the overnight bus - arriving into London Victoria at 7am yesterday morning. And soon after getting back to our flat (for the 3rd time this month), we re-packed our bags ready for the next December adventure, this time a 5 hour drive in a hire car from London, westwards to Newquay on the north-west coast of Cornwall.

After picking up the hire car from Heathrow, we ventured onto a very wet and dangerous M4 motorway full of people doing the same thing for the new years weekend. I soon fell in love with the silver VW Golf I'd been allocated, and it began to eat up the miles very quickly as the traffic thinned out the further we got away from the capital. By the end of the trip this brilliant German machine was hurtling along the M4 and the A30 at a very stable 90-100 mph which I absolutely loved, and Carly didn't mind too much either!! Yes Jen, I was speeding!

We arrived at Newquay in the evening, checked into the hostel, ditched our bags, and quickly met up with Daniel, Sophie, and friends in a great local bar for the first of many deserved beers last night, after our 20 hours in transit since we'd left Scotland. Sadly though, the night moved on to the nearby Newquay Walkabout - not my choice of venue but fun was had all the same as we got stuck into what was a good warm-up for tonights main event - the renowned Newquay fancy dress New Years party!


Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas in a castle

More to come soon


Friday, December 23, 2005

Off to Scotland & up to the Highlands

More to come soon, once I make sense of the notes below and insert the photos..


depart london overnight on bus
arrive in edinburgh, met up with sueanne and pete
travel to first night accomm
karaoke night in hostel

23rd December
- First stop was at Dunkeld Cathedral where we had breakfast
- Lunch was at Kingussie
- next stop was at Ruthven Barracks
- after listening to Verity's long speech we hurried off the bus to get pics of the hairy coo'ooooos
- stopped on side of road for photo opportunity of Ardverikie castle on shores of Loch Laggan (where Monarch of the Glen was filmed)
- Stopped for toilets and to try whisky at Speade
- then off to the Commando Memorial (3 men facing mountains)
- stopped at well of seven heads on Loch Oich
- walked to Loch Ness and then headed to hostel - Morags Lodge

24th December
- Stopped for walk and played frisby (sorry didn't get name of place)
- Urquhart Castle first stop on Loch Ness
- Stopped at the Visitor centre for toilet stop and photos with Nessy (big fibreglass statue)
- Loch Ness where Carly and Shane went for a swim
- Stopped at Inverness for lunch
- went to Culladon battlefield
- stopped at Balnuaran of Clava - prehistoric cemetry (lots of stones in circles)
- Carbisdale castle
- Ghost tour around castle

25th December
- walk around castle grounds
- then to Dornoch Beach for frisby - and lunch
- dinner at castle

26th December
- stopped for photo of castle
- walk up through highlands up to Bone Cave
- lunch at Ardvreck castle (most romantic) and Calda House on the shores of Lochinver
- drove to Isle of Skye - Saucy Mary's

27th December
- Stopped at Bradford for Isle of Skye photo (where Greg got petrol)
- stopped walked down by magical water where everyone put face into stream to make look more beautiful!!!!
- walk to fairy pools
- stopped for lunch at Eileen Dolan Castle - most photographed castle
- photo of Loch Garry at sunset and then off to photograph Ben Nevis at Commando Memorial
- Stayed at Oban ( can anyone remember name of hostel???)
- Dinner at taj mahal
- Drinks at O'Donnells

28th December
- Stopped at Glencoe
- photo of frozen lake
- Lunch at Green Welli
- Stopped at Doune Castle
- Stirling Bridge and then off to Wallace Monument
- Back to Edinburgh

Monday, December 19, 2005

Gav and Ang get enagaged!

On my way to work this morning, fresh off the plane from Boston not 3 hours earlier, and i get the news via text messages and a phone call back to Brisbane that our friends Gavin and Angela got engaged over the weekend. I won't be putting this post onto the public part of the blog until after christmas, as they were planning to hold off until then to tell their families..

Following on from my brother Michael's proposal in Belgium a few weeks ago, Gav got himself organised with a ring, champagne, and a down-on-knee proposal at Point Cartwright on the Sunshine Coast in Qld that apparently got the tears flowing. So, apparently that's another wedding to add to the list for 2007!

Just thought i'd mark the event down in here so we remember where we were when it all happened back home.

Congrats from us..!

-shane & carly

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Beautiful Boston

More to come soon


Friday, December 16, 2005

why do we catch buses, when we know we hate them

Last night, we travelled from New York city, up through Connecticut, and into Boston in Massachusetts. Sounds lovely doesn't it.. WRONG!

Because the high price of rail in the U.S. means that it is almost worth flying in most cases, we opted to take a Greyhound bus between the two cities, a journey of just over 4 hours. In short, it was the worst bus trip we'd ever been on!!

We got on the shitiest bus i've ever been on from somewhere in the middle of the queue, only to find that every person ahead of us was a 'single', and that we had to sit in seats behind each other. Not a problem... at first..... as we slowly crept out of Manhatten, taking just on an hour to clear the streets and avenues and make it off of the island and over to Brooklyn near Yankees Stadium where we joined an expressway to head out of New York.

Travelling north-east (from my memory of a map) we were headed into some forecast bad weather as the traffic began to slow and thicken around us, and the scheduled 4 hours began to stretch out. As the sleet began falling through Conneticuit we encountered delays because of numerous accidents, and in our seperate seats we were getting very little rest after our very busy last few days in New York.

We finally entered the bus/train station in Boston well over an hour late, and on entering the concourse and reading the signs we realised that almost every service after ours back to New York and elsewhere on the eastern seaboard had been cancelled that night because of the expected weather conditions on the roads. We were then grateful for our good timing, considering that it could have been a lot worse if we had been stuck somewhere!

Instead of negating the Boston 'T' tram and trolley car service, we just hopped in a cab and paid to get over to our hotel on the north side of the CBD, where we checked in and to our surprise were treated to an upgrade to a fantastic huge 2 room suite with free wireless internet (where i'm posting this from now on our PowerBook), two massive Sony TV's with 60 cable channels, and a huge bed and views of the city. Lovely.

We contemplated a walk into town to get dinner, but considering the weather was worsening outside, and we'd spotted a McDonalds a few doors down from the hotel, we opted for some rubbish feel-good food from the Golden Arches - proudly only the first time we'd done it while in the U.S.

This morning when we finally woke, we opened the curtains to find the weather outside had worsened overnight as forecast, so while we wait for the sleet and gales to stop and the sun to come out later today (according to the forecast), we are enjoying the chance to finally sit around and do sweet bugger all while on holidays! Oh, and watch all of the 60 cable channels while we have the chance!

We'll head out later when the weather improves and see what Boston has to offer..


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

the full Tiffany & Co. experience

Today, Carly and I went shopping. But this was not just any shopping trip. We went and brought our wedding rings from the Tiffany & Co. store on 5th Avenue.. Exciting stuff!

Firstly we visited what was becoming our favourite traditional New York diner for breakfast around the corner from our hotel on Madison Avenue, and after that caught a taxi uptown to near the 5th Avenue shopping area.

We fronted the Tiffany & Co store on 5th Avenue (I could almost feel my credit card cringing at what it was about to be lumped with!), and confidently went up to the 2nd floor (Diamond Rings, etc.) trying to act like this is something we do everyday.. Having already tried them on in the Bond Street and Harrods stores in London, and also in the Sydney store when we got Carly's engagement ring nearly 2 years ago, we began trying on the platinum Lucida-style bands that we wanted to get. Carly opted for a 3mm one that matched her engagement ring perfectly, and I decided on my original preference, a 6mm wide Lucida platinum band.

After making the big decision on the rings we would wear for the rest of our lives, we had to make arangements with our Gemologist for Carly's band to be resized, because they simply do not stock tiny 3.5 sized bands off the shelf! As you'd expect from the best jewellery store in the world, this would take a mere couple of hours and would be done in-store, and we could pick it up that afternoon when we were ready. Very impressive service, but more was to come later.

With the decisions made, and the card swiped through the machine, we headed upstairs to put her still brand-new looking engagement ring in for the day to be inspected, cleaned, and serviced - all part of their life-long committment to their rings.. fantastic piece of mind stuff when you've spent that much!!

Having to fill time while the wedding ring was resized and the ring checked out, we headed out onto 5th Avenue for an afternoon of shopping. London friend from Shorrolds, Ben, had already given me a hot tip to head to the Abercrombie & Fitch store across the street, and over 3 hours later I emerged with a pile of great new clothes I nearly almost couldn't carry myself! All of the prices were fantastic when you converted the US$ prices into pounds, compared to what you'd pay for the same stuff in London - so I felt quite alright about my buy up!!

After a few more stores of shopping and the obligatory afternoon coffee to ward off the almost freezing maximum temperatures, we headed back to Tiffany's to pickup the new wedding bands. While waiting there for the rings to be brought out, we were asked of we'd prefer to wait in a private viewing room at the side of the main room, and if we'd like a glass of champagne while we waited - now, as my mate Brett and I would put it, this was definitely what you'd call 'getting the love'.. picture it: Private Room, Champagne in Tiffany champagne glasses, in Tiffany & Co. 5th Avenue New York!! I couldn't believe my ears!!!

Another blue bag with another blue box

We were all (Ross & Jen were with us) ushered through a side door to a beautiful private consultation room overlooking 5th Avenue, where 4 glasses of bubbly in Tiffany glasses were brought in, and shortly after our man returned with a carefully wrapped small box, covered in blue paper and a white ribbon. After thanking him for all his help, we were left there to pretty much savour the moment of when we brought our wedding rings in one of the most beautiful stores you'll ever see. Of course I had to ring mum back home to get her in on the occaision, and at the same time quickly tell her about our newly announced wedding plans for 2007, which will be the next time we see the wedding rings!!

What an unforgettable day!


Friday, December 09, 2005

On our way to the U.S.A.

Today has been a hugely exciting day getting ready for the long-awaited trip to New York & Boston. While Carly had to opt out of a full-days work because of our mid-afternoon departure, I stupidly decided that a quick 4 hour early morning stint in the office wound be a good idea. Wrong. I got bogged down on one last application that was due over to the GLA the day before, and before I knew it I was cursing the terribly slow dialing/scanning of the fax machine as I sent off my weeks timesheet, and then running out the front door and bolting down St Katherine’s Way to Tower Hill tube and home to start packing – walking in the door only 45 minutes before we had to leave the house for Heathrow. Nothing changes I hear some of you say.

So now we’re sitting on an American Airlines 777-200, winging our way over the far North Atlantic just off the coast of Greenland, inbound for JFK International in New York. Carly is trying to sleep which is a good idea, considering that when we land it will be 7:30pm local time, and our bodies will be still thinking it is 12:30am.. We then meet up with Carly’s parents Ross and Jenny for a first look around the city that doesn’t sleep

Anyway I need sleep myself – its been a long day already after a 5:15am start this morning as I headed to the office to finish of some last minute things – and I can only guess that Ross and Jen will be keen to catch up on all our goings-on.

***Update – we’re just crossing the coast into North America, and beneath us out the window in the moonlit-reflection off the water you can make out the jagged coastline of Newfoundland near Goose Bay, which is dotted with lighthouses protecting the shipping from what is probably pretty dangerous coastline – and so now down we go to New York.. we're both pretty excited!


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Photos from an average week of our lives in London

A fantastic quote I read in a travel photography book i've got, has been ringing in my head this past week:
"It is the greatest boon on earth to the travelling man, like myself, to be able to bring home, at no small an outlay of time and money, a complete photographic memorandum of his travels."

(The Birth of Photography: The Story of the Formative Years 1800-1900. B. Coe, 1977)
I've never wanted this on-line journal to turn into a photo library, as it's meant to be more about recording in writing the major things we get up to while on our 2 year adventure in the UK/Europe, so that we've got a diary of-sorts to look back on in years to come - but, with the new camera getting a workout last week and over the weekend, I thought it best to sneak in a few 'show-off' shots with the new gear now, so i'm less inclined to bore you all with more later on..

Firstly, one night last week I took a slow walk home from work to the tube station, taking in the area around Tower Bridge, Tower Hill, and the ice skating rink they've put together for xmas in the moat of the Tower Hill castle.

Tower Bridge (*no tripod Rob!!)

Ice Skating in the Moat, Tower of London (I walk past here everyday on the way to work)

I also took it with me and got some shots down at the North End Road markets which we visit almost every Saturday for all our fresh fruit and veg, and other goodies such as fresh european cheeses, salami's, olives, and of course pastries from my old mate at good ol' Vanni's Pattisseri!

Saturday's North End Road Markets, Fulham

Our favourite cheese stall

Cheap easy breakfast from the Vanni Patisserie

Then on Saturday night we were all dressed up and heading over to Fulham for drinks with friends at one of the popular bars - so I practiced more with some shots of Carly before we stepped out. As I always predicted (and continue to tell her), she's just like a good wine, only getting better with age.. She'll kill me when she gets home and sees these online!

Just stunning..

I am now we're almost ready to hit the streets of New York and Boston on Thursday, and go completely snap happy!! Carly is already fearing the slide show night we'll have to have when we eventually get home!