Page 7 of mike and elysia Travel Blog Posts



This weekend, we rented a car with two of Mike's classmates from Singapore (Fuad and Aloysius - the same two we met at the Giant's Causeway), and headed out on the wrong side of the road (well, technically, it was the left side) to a region of England just 1.5 hours outside of London called the Cotswolds. The region is a range of limestone hills, which are dotted with picturesque villages that are made of limestone buildings. It's also a great region to do some hiking, which is what we planned on doing. We set off on Saturday morning to pick up the car at Heathrow airport. We had only gotten our acts together on Friday night to rent the car (didn't get around to booking a hotel though), so we arrived at the airport at ... read more
Still Bourton-on-the-Water
We stopped for some Cotswolds-famous ice cream!
Hanging out in the town of Lower Slaughter


This morning, needless to say, was a bit slow. We dragged ourselves out of our room around lunch time and caught the train to Belfast. Having the train station across the street turned out to be very convenient, and in 2.5 hours we reached the other side of Northern Ireland. Because it was so late in the day, we didn't have a whole lot of time to do anything, we just wandered around to see what Belfast is all about. Belfast is a very new looking city, due to bombings related to The Troubles and World War II. The city centre was pretty much closed since it was Sunday, and everyone was nursing their hangovers, so we just strolled through and spent a bit of time looking around their city hall. The big claim to fame ... read more
Downtown Belfast
Elysia at City Hall
On the Water


Today was the reason for our trip to Northern Ireland: to celebrate St. Paddy's Day in Irish style. We wanted to come to Derry for this occasion primarily because flights were cheaper than going to Dublin (we thought some of Mike's friends from school would join us, but they bailed), but also because we thought there would be less tourists and more of an authentic St Patrick's Day experience. Apparently the celebration of St Patrick's Day has been suppressed in the north more recently because of The Troubles, but the last few years it has been getting popular again. How could they pass up the opportunity to have a huge party? Before the festivities got underway, we wanted to explore the city of Derry (also known as Londonderry). The reason behind Londonderry is because of the ... read more
Crossing the bridge into the main centre of Derry
One of the gates into the walled city
Outside the old city walls


This morning, we got up super early (4am) and caught a 7:30am flight to Derry (1 hour flight), Northern Ireland where we were going to spend St. Patrick's Day, Irish-style. We had heard that the weather over the weekend was going to be rainy, so we were happy with the little bit of cloud cover that we saw when we arrived. We tried to check in our hotel, but the door was locked and the bar attached to it was still closed, so we were happy that we packed our backpacks lightly, because we carried them around with us for the day. We quickly realized that Derry is a small town that likely doesn't warrant the three days we planned to stay there, so we decided to head out of town for the day, to the ... read more
Our first glimpse of Derry
Scenery from the train
The North Coast

Europe » France » Brittany » Saint-Malo March 11th 2012

Not much news from yesterday, as we left Andorra and tried to boot it back up north as far as we could so we could catch our flight today. We drove from Andorra to Nantes, France which took us 9 hours of driving and 1 hour of waiting (in severe traffic because of an unknown incident). Today we were in a much better position. Being only an hour and a half away from the airport, we had ample time to explore the city we first came into on this trip: St. Malo. We figured that we had too much time on our hands, and didn't know what to expect in st malo (after all, it was Sunday and that's a quiet day). However, we were very pleasantly surprised. Our first order of business when we got ... read more
At the Noyal-Chatillion Market
Crepe from the market
St. Malo (not the walled city part)

Europe » Andorra » Pas de la Casa March 9th 2012

Well, we lugged some of our ski gear all the way from Toronto to London and on to France in the hopes of getting some time on the snow. Although we weren't able to get to the alps this year for a proper ski trip, we decided to squeeze it into our trip around France, and head to Andorra. And today we finally got a chance to use this equipment! Andorra is a much cheaper alternative to the alps. We rented equipment from the shop in our hotel. They had a 20% off discount (since its low season now) and they threw in the helmets for free. Unfortunately, they didn't have the best skis for Elysia... All they had was the silver level skis, and she wanted gold. But the price was so cheap that we ... read more
Looking up at the ski run at Pas de La Casa
Looking down into the Pas de La Casa village
It's fitting that Mike poses next to the SOS sign.. he may need help getting down the mountain :)

Europe » France » Languedoc-Roussillon » Carcassonne March 8th 2012

Today we awoke in the beautiful city of Carcassone, and excitedly ventured out to explore the castle, which was closed the night before. Before leaving the hotel though, we ate our free breakfast - the first proper breakfast we have had since getting off the ferry a week ago. Although French baguettes are delicious, they do get a bit old when you eat them for at least two, and sometimes three meals in a day! The Carcassone castle was as expected: spectacular. The city has a huge history - dating back to a rich family that ruled the region in the 11th or so century. (Actually the history goes back even further, as the original city walls were Roman.) The patriarch of the family was eventually ousted during the crusades for aiding heretics, but this was ... read more
Outside the citadel
Side view of the fortress
Trying to escape into town

Europe » France » Languedoc-Roussillon » Carcassonne March 7th 2012

After spending a night at the campsite, the morning was a bit rough (at least for Elysia). It was a cold night, but we awoke to the beautiful sunshine. After packing up the tent and making some coffee, we headed to spend a few hours in the old town of Nimes, before making our way to the highlight of the day, Carcassonne. We were only in Nimes for two hours, which we felt wasn't enough, so we will have to go back. We had incidently picked up a walking tour pamphlet for Nimes, so we thought it would be a great way to get a feel for the city. Unfortunately we lost the brochure with the street map in it, but more fortunately, we were right in front of the tourist info centre when we lost ... read more
No, this is not Greece... it's Nimes, France
Nimes Cathedral (12th Century)
The Nimes Colosseum

Europe » France » Languedoc-Roussillon » Nîmes » Lasalle March 6th 2012

Today we left Millau for Nîmes via the Gorge de Tarn (the gorge cut by the river Tarn). This is definitely the long way round, but we had heard great things about the gorge so we thought it was worth checking out. As it turns out, we were right. The drive itself was incredibly fun and really made Mike wish he still owned his roadster. The road was full of hairpin turns, tunnels, cliffs and curves. Oh, and it was narrow- very narrow. There were sections that were definitely no wider than a single lane ... And these would go on for miles! Then, you would see a 'road narrows' sign, then another, and another. The funny thing was that the whole time there was a line marking the centre of the road - for dividing ... read more
Gorges du Tarn
Gorges du Tarn
Gorges du Tarn

Europe » France » Midi-Pyrénées » Millau March 5th 2012

Today we turned our little Peugot south and headed for Millau. Most of the big autoroutes in France are toll roads - and the tolls aren't cheap. The toll for the drive to Millau from Bourges would be €54, and that really only covers the first third of the journey because the rest is toll free. Needless to say, we looked for an alternative route! We found another highway that virtually paralleled the autoroute most of the way, but it meandered a bit through many small towns. It actually turned into a very nice drive and we spotted many chateaus along the way... Some in ruins and some that appeared to be still occupied. The road was quite a bit slower (90 in the fast sections and 30 or 50 through towns; the autoroute is a ... read more
A Chateau We Found Along the Way to Millau
Yup, We are Definitely in France
Quite Mountainous Terrain




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