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Published: January 8th 2009
Anita thinks she has died and gone to heaven
First of all Merry Xmas to our family and all our friends back home. we hope you all had a fantastic Xmas and 2009 brings good health and the realisation of your dreams.
Anita and I decided that whilst living in England it may be one of the few opportunities we will ever have to experience Xmas in the Northern hemisphere, a White Xmas and so we resisted the urge to book a holiday in a sunny beach resort in Morrocco, Mumbai or Madagascar and chose a holiday that included Xmas day in Paris, three days in the Swiss Alps and trip through Germany and New Years Eve in Amsterdam. It was bloody freezing and we are already dreaming of our next Xmas in the warm Summer of Aotearoa.
But before we start the trip lets go back to the 21 Decmeber, Emarites Staduim, Finsbury Park, home of the Arse, Arsenal Football club. My team Liverpool were playing the arse and I was lucky enough to have a friend with a season ticket. A full house, 70,000 crazy football fans (90% Arsenal supporters) turned out to watch two of the richest, biggest and best clubs in England ever the
Sacre Coeur by night
This is where we listened to carols Xmas Eve
world, to do battle. And what a battle it was. Not a great game (1-1) at full time but the passion in the stadium was amazing. So was the hate. Unfortunately I was sitting with the Arsenal crowd and could not cheer for my team. I would have been lynched. I never feared for my well being but seriously it was not safe to cheer for Liverpool. The referee copped a lot of flak every time a decision went against the home team and the crowd gave the Liverpool players a hard time. Admitedly a lot was good natured.Although a lot of the fans were very aggressive. Think of warriors fans and multipy by ten. As soon as the full time whistle went, everyone calmed down and we went down to the local to sink a few pints and relive the game. A great experience.
So back to the trip. Wednesday 24th December 5am on a cold winters day we awake to prepare to get to Canada Water Tube for 7am checkin and 8am departure. As we cross the road with our backpacks, sorry my backpack (Anita has graduated to wheels) we board one of the two buses and
A beautiful day on top of Europe
realise we are going to be sharing the next 10 days with 100 others, mainly South Africans but a good many Kiwis and Aussies as well. We leave at 8, get to Dover at 9-30, catch the ferry at 12 noon and land in Calais at 2 . We arrived in Paris at 7pm, day one. ( Oh the joy of the Eurostar) Its Xmas eve so its off to Montmatre for a tour. This turned out to be very special because when we walked up to Sacr'e Coeur. We discovered there was a Carol Service at 11pm. Christmas eve and carols in a famous/historic church seemed a pretty cool thing to do and so we did. we filled in the time wandering the area, soaking up the xmas atmosphere (including the red light area) before returning to the church. It was carols, not as we know them (nothing we recognised) , but it was unique.
Anita and I shared presents when we got back to the hotel at 1am but hey that was noon NZ time and most of you would have opened yours. Next day we did a walking tour of Paris, the weather was sunny in
The Ice Palace
Under the glacier in chambers of ice
the morning but by 2pm was very grey and a cold 0 degrees. We really enjoyed the Latin Quarter and warmed ourselves with the most delicious hot chocolate I have ever had. This was real chocolate, no sachets here and the liquid was so thick you needed a spoon to help drink/eat it. This shop sold only chocolate and had 27 variations to chose from.
Day 3 and its off to Interlacken, Switzerland in Jungfrau region. We arrived 7pm, temperature -3. The hostel is cosy. An old old hotel (that has seen better days) now a hostel and bingo we have a bath, such a treat after our London bathroom tucked under the stairs. That is like the best Xmas present ever because we have not had a bath for months and our place in London has a bathroom that in size, is only slightly bigger that a bath. So for the next three nights we luxury of soaking in a bath. And what better way to relax and wind down from a day skiing in the Alps. Well we didn't actually ski (we can't) but we had a great time. We got a two day pass that allowed
The villages were magical, pure beauty
us to travel on rail and cable car between villages. It was absolutey beautiful, just like you see in the postcards. Although the temperature never rose above -2 and at the top of the mountains was -9. The sun shone the whole time and all the villages and ski slopes looked picture perfect. The postcardswe saw also indicated that the area looks even prettier in the summer.
We lashed out and paid an extra £70 to take the special railcar to Jungfraujoch, the higgest point in Europe for non mountaineers. It was amazing. They even have an ice palace ccarved out under the top of the mountain. For me it was the highlight of the trip and I have found Switzerland on both occasions to be quite special.
Day 6 and its another travel day, we're of the Germany, Boppard on the Rhine. So its on the bus and off. We stop about every 4 hours for food and bladder release and our time on the bus is spent watching DVDs, reading, ipoding and for those who are lucky enough to be able to sleep (Anita), sleepng. We arrive at about 3pm (short day) and board a boat
The result of too many. Keith (the driver) and the Tavern owner doing the male thing (mines bigger than yours)
for a 90 minute cruise on the Rhine. Cruises just aren't the same when the skies are grey and outside the boat the temperture struggles to reach 1 degree (even with patches of blue sky). However it is pretty and the number of castles unbelievable. It is like every village had someone in it that owned a castle. The hotel in Boppard (Hotel Rhinelust)was the best of the tour, the food was the awesome also and we spend an enjoyable evening in a local tavern, being entertained by the bus driver (who must of cut his teeth at end of year rugby trips) and the Tavern owner.
Day 7 and Willie sings, "On the road again, just can't wait to get on the road again, the life I love is making music with my friends......" Yes the final leg Amsterdam via a traditional Dutch village (with windmills), a cheese factory and a fishing village and we still arrived at our hostel by 7pm. Its still bloody freezing but we have 30 minutes to drop our bags in our room and head to downdown Amsterdam for a walking tour of the redlight district. Don't know what I was expecting but
4pm on a cold Amsterdam day
it seemed tame. Just a pile of sex shops, clubs (more later) and hundreds of women standing in little shop windows, trying to entice customers to sample there wears ( a S*%K & F*^k for £'.50 ). The most amazing thing was the number there were streets of them, I didn't count but they seemed to be everywhere and each window has several woman working various shifts. The streets were packed with sightseers and customers (I guess). If you fancy a woman they open the door, pull the curtain and you have 15 minutes to do your thing.
The next day we went on a walking tour of the city. The guide was fantastic, a gifted storyteller (Neil the Canadian) with a heaps of knowledge of Amsterdam. On a cold bleak day he informed and entertained us for 3 hours all for a koha. When talking about the coffee shops famous for the drugs rather than the coffee we learnt that good old NZ tops the world for cannabis use per head of population (embarassing!) . Later in the day we lined for 45 minutes to view the house that Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis,
It was so cold many of the canals were only suitable for ice skating
for more than two years. It was quite moving. It so so cold that we went back to the hostel to thaw out (in bed/separate bunks) before heading to Dam Square to bring in 2009. It was the same as most parts of the world bands playing, fireworks and crowds of happy people. They love their fireworks over here and people were still going at 4am. the next day was quiet so at dinner we (others on our tour) all decided when in Rome and headed off to view a Live Sex Show. I think everyone had been contemplating the idea but not wanting to be the first mention it. I won't go in to the details of what we witnessed, no more than 10 feet away, but it was graphic and the girls were well groomed. What I will say is although there may of been a couple of stimulating moments, it was hardly erotic or sexy and a oncer. It wasn't seedy though, the women out numbered the men and it had to be done. One of the highlights was when the perfomers got some young kiwis guys (there was a Contiki group in the audience) up on stage to assist them with the performance. They all got into the spirit.
Day 10 we headed home through Belgium and back to Calais. We arrived back in London at 9pm. All in all a good trip, not great because of the accommodation and cold. I don't think it got above 3degrees and generally sat around -1. But you get what you pay for and £500 for 10 days travel with some food and accommodation so it wasn't bad.
Its been back to work to earn the pounds this week . In two weeks we are off to Edinburgh to help Robbie B celebrate his birthday and on the 27th off to see Dirty Dancing (the show and my Xmas present).
E noho ora mai Koutou..............Tony and Anita
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