Sunday, October 26, 2008

I'm beached as bro...

I don't know if its just because it reminds me of the Kiwis we travelled with, but I thought this was hilarious:

- Jen

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A bike ride home with Jen - brought to you by Jentopia

You might have heard about the 'bike rage' on the weekend, where about 13 cyclists coming back from round the bay had some hoons swerve into them.

So here is some of my ride home today:

- Get down into the carpark and unlock my bike, putting on my front headlight, helmet light, back bike light and backpack light.

- Walk bike from carpark to road, waiting at pedestrian lights to cross over to Nicholson St, walk bike over pedestrian crossing

- Ride down bike/walk footpath along Nicholson St, can't turn onto the road at Carlton St once I get to the corner of Carlton gardens because cars tear around there too fast.

-Scowl at cyclists riding through the gardens (you're not supposed to)

- Ride up Canning St until I get to a roundabout, enter the single lane roundabout, car comes into roundabout behind me and almost swipes me as it tries to overtake me.

- Catch up to car at lights and scowl at driver

- Wait at lights with about ten other cyclists (some who do go through the lights before they're green)

- Carefully watch each street that joins onto Canning st in case any cars drive through the intersection without looking for cyclists lit up like Christmas trees.

- Ride down Park St, get the green light riding onto Lygon St (bonus!)

- Continue riding down Park St, Brunswick. Almost at end of Park St going down a hill when I slow down at a t-intersection because most people turn left at the intersection and I'm going straight. Sure enough a sports car zooms up but just slows when they see I'm not turning.

- Driver of sports car on mobile phone

- Continue riding down hill, pedestrian steps in front of bike

- Slam on brakes, back wheel slides - and I somehow manage to not fall off.

- Tell pedestrian to 'have a look next time neckface'*, who shouts back that I should 'use my bell'. 'Politely' tell pedestrian to 'go away'*, pedestrian tells me to 'get a frog'*, I tell pedestrian he's a 'wally'*, continue riding while muttering under my breath.

- Ride over the top of citylink (on the footpath)

- Stop at pedestrian lights rather than having to ride on road with cars and try to cross Ormond Rd that way.

- Rest of trip home was okay and I admired the setup for Cox Plate at Moonee Valley.

I love riding now, especially now its a bit warmer. I get fresh air, don't have to put up with Connex (I beat trains home), get some more exercise and I get home in a great mood. But for all that, it just takes one driver who is talking on their phone, one bus where it shouldn't be, one cyclist who decides to race through an intersection (or 100..) - you get my point.

One of the man's friends was hit last week going home on his bike, a car saw him coming and they turned in front of him anyway. And he hit it. Fell over the front bonnet of the car. And the car kept going. Didn't even stop. Thankfully he only broke his toe. His girlfriend has been hit too, by a taxi. Both the man and I have had minor 'hits', the man got side swiped by a ute.

I can't be any more visible. I can't be anymore careful. If you google map my ride home, its all backstreets. Especially Canning St, its fantastic for cyclists getting into the city. Click here to see how awesome it is. I don't know how you guys feel about cyclists.

Its cars, its pedestrians and its cyclists. Sure, pedestrians jaywalk, sure cyclists run red lights, and if they get hit - then thats their fault. But seriously, car drivers need to pull their heads in.

(ducks for cover)

- Jen

*I may have substituted certain words for a more 'family friendly' feel.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

SOTM - October 2008 - Home for a rest

Song of the month (even if I've missed a few) was really easy. In fact this can count for two months worth because its such a good song.

Anyway the song is 'home for a rest' by Spirit of the West. It was our 'day song' on Contiki, so it got played every morning on the bus and whenever we were on the way back from somewhere. It even got played in the bomb shelter in Switzerland which was pretty cool. So anyway, it got played a lot.

Definitely very fitting for the trip anyway.

- Jen

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Interesting or useful sites

A bit boring I guess, but if any of you have suffered through my travel notes then you might actually find this interesting. I have been put OFF blogging after typing up all of that stuff.

Has usernames and passwords to lots of sites so you don't have to keep signing up for stuff

Shows people uploading stuff to flickr and where they're from - interesting if you're bored

You can map out running tracks here, or see how far you've gone etc

Expert videos to show you how to do anything! e.g. making pizza dough, cracking particular computer games etc

Pretty self explanatory...

BSB look up list

- Jen

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Paris - Day 17 of 18!

We arrived at about 5pm, after driving all day from Switzerland. Yep thats right we drove from Switzerland to Paris. Pretty crazy! When we got there Rocket started doing a lap of the city while Mecha pointed out the sights and told us a bit about them. Then we got stuck because a lot of the roads were closed and there were police everywhere in their riot gear. I thought there had been a terrorist attack or some violent protest at the very least. Every street we tried to go down was blocked.

We finally found out that the Pope was in town and doing a mass at Notre Dame. As he does.

We were able to drive around the Arc de Triomphe which was absolute mayhem. Bikes and cars everywhere and the only rule is that traffic going around has to give was to traffic coming on. Mayhem! Rumour has it there is an accident every ten minutes.

We drove through the Louvre courtyard which was really cool, saw the famous pyramid. We headed off to our campsite which looks alright. Had drinks + entree before dinner which was champers + escargot. Some people wouldn't even try them! They were fine, just very garlicky and buttery. I don't really see the point of them if you have to coat them in butter etc they probably aren't that great on their own?

We bought a few extra bottles of the pink champers for after dinner. Dinner was so good, chicken, salads and apple turnover for dessert. Food is picking up! We went and sat outside and drank for a bit and nicknamed the two English school girls on our trip. Kathryn Mary became Mazza and Sam Gibbons, Gibbo. They were so excited to have nicknames. I've seen them wearing their school shirts from Repton which had been bugging me all trip because it sounded so familiar, but I've remembered that was where Roald Dahl went to school.

Then they cracked us up by saying that they couldn't believe girls as good looking as Kara and I (I do believe they mentioned the words best looking girls on the tour) were with guys like Paul and the man. Kara and I were quite chuffed. The boys..not so.

Bit of a stretch I think and might have had something to do with the amount of pink bubbles they'd had.

We headed to bed ready for our day exploring Paris.

Breakfast - bacon, eggs, baguettes aaanddd..coco pops with cold milk! Possibly the best yet!

Into town where the man, Paul, Kara and I declined going to a French perfumerie so we could line up for the Eiffel tower. It turned out most people in our group took this option, or lining up for the Louvre. We didn't have to wait long at all, the longest part was waiting for it to open! Then we walked up to the Arc de Triomphe and stood around for ten minutes but saw no accidents. Nothing happened so we decided to stroll down Champs-Élysées and stopped off at Macca's (one with white arches not yellow) so the man could get a Royale with cheese. I had a pain au chocolat and coffee which were really good.

We continued strolling along Champs-Élysées stopping off here and there. We were doing pretty well for time, it was only about 12.30pm and we didn't have to meet up with the group until 6pm and only had Notre Dame and the Louvre to do. Walked up to place de la concorde and through to the Louvre and down the river to Notre Dame which took us quite a bit longer than anticipated. After a quick scout around Notre Dame we were starting to panic about not having enough time at the Louvre so we walked back there. Did the Louvre lite, ticked off Miss Lisa, Miss Milo etc and then realised we had tons of time. Oh, and didn't have to queue at ALL to get in!

You could never have enough time at the Louvre. Mecha said if you stopped and looked at every artwork for a minute if would take you nine months to see everything, no including walking time.
It was weird walking around going 'oh there's a da vinci, there's another one, oh and here is a sculpture by Bernini'. After we'd exhausted ourselves we went out and found the world's most expensive ice cream shop - Haagen Daz. I just wanted an ordinary ice cream in a cone but we ended up sitting ni, the cheapest ice cream I could get was 7 euro. The man as as unofficial lactard didn't have any. We met up with the rest of the group as we were walking past the glass pyramid, on our way to the bottom of the inverted pyramid where we were supposed to meet up. Just about everyone was in the wrong place and I felt awkward about saying 'I'm pretty sure you guys are all in the wrong spot'. I'm good at listening and remembering random things, although where we are supposed to meet is pretty important. I was right though.

Then we had to change for our fancy dinner & cabaret night. There were about 30 or more girls on our tour and I reckon just about all of them were getting changed in the toilets at the Louvre. Chaos! We headed to dinner, being careful not to get caught by the finger stealing string tying gypsies on the way. Dinner was nice enough. The good thing about being a couple is you get to taste everything. We had the escargot, french onion soup, beef bourguignon and duck a'la orange which cheese, dessert and coffee.

After dinner we headed to the cabaret show at La Nouvelle Eve. Definitely not what I was expecting! I wasn't expecting topless girls mostly.

The dancers were good, but just when I was getting sick of feathers, breasts and dancing there were jugglers...and acrobats! Then some audience participation....

The ringmaster (or whatever you call her...mistress??) was picking guys out of the audience for a dancing competition. She got two older guys, then a guy from another contiki...then searching, searching aaannd....finally settles on the man. Up he goes onto the stage, to a huge cheer from our champagne fuelled group, does his dance which was him grabbing his right foot behind his back and putting his left hand on the back of his head and bringing his left elbow and right knee together. His 'fan club' as the ringleader called our group, went crazy! They were chanting the man's name and screaming. It was insane! So he ended up winning the competition. Out came a dancer dressed as a bride (to my horror), then her top came off and they walked off stage together. Then the man comes back out holding a baby doll, and everyone went nuts again. The ringmaster kissed him all over the face (see pic) and asked if he had a girlfriend (and I froze in horror), and then he pointed out where I was sitting and said we were engaged. More laughter and cheering.

You couldn't make this stuff up!

After the show we headed back to the campsite, while others went to a nightclub. A group of us went to the camp bar and bought up big as they were closing soon after we got there. It was a really fun night, and ended up in bed at 3:30am, and had to be up at 6:30..

After breakfast of coco pops we departed for London via Calais...

My notes end here, because I didn't take any in London. I will try to do shorter notes of what we got up to there later on.

It was mad to think it was our last day together, although nice to think we'd be back with George and Bridge soon and that we still had ten days to explore London. The ferry ride back was really quick, as was the trip from Dover to London. It was strange to think we'd shared so much with these people and now we'd never see them again!

- Jen

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Switzerland (Lauterbrunnen)

We got to our campsite sorry..Gasthof and went straight to dinner. Which was awesome! Chicken in cream sauce and potato..bits and salad! Really really good. We haven't been eating all that well at the Contiki places which has annoyed me. I turn into a real mardy bum when I'm hungry or tired and most of the time its been both on this tour. Actually I will add in what was the entree - fondue. Which was REVOLTING. Imagine the stinkiest, most awful cheese you can imagine - melted, with vomit added. Then dip bread in it. That was fondue. I'm pretty sure that's not right. Its cheese, melted - it should be awesome!
After checking out the bomb shelter nightclub (a nightclub in the Gasthofs bomb shelther) I went to bed pretty early. We were sharing a room with one of the other couples who warned us they snored. I was so tired and the thought of another night with no sleep didn't amuse me. Lucky I had investigated ear plugs before we left. Before I went to bed I went and had a shower in what I called 'the swamp' - pretty sure the whole bathroom..with 10 or so showers only had one drain. My ears were so wet the earplugs stuck in really tight and I could not hear a thing. Brilliant!
I was a bit concerned I wouldn't hear my alarm so of course I woke up ages before I had to. The reps at the Gasthof told us that Jungfrau mountain is really expensive and we should go to a supermarket before and get food for the trip. In true Jenu style I was up at 6.30am and walked into Lauterbrunnen.

The first place I got to was a Backerei (bakery) which didn't have much and the supermarket didn't open until 8am, which was no good. On the way back I walked up to a massive waterfall overlooking our Gasthof (did I mention we were in the swiss alps?) I didn't go in because it was dark..and wet and I'm a girl.
Got back for breakfast - cold milk and....HONEY SMACKS!! Or if you preferred a cooked breakfast (instead of two gigantic bowls of HONEY SMACKS!!) you could have toad in the hole. But you'd have HONEY SMACKS anyway because they're awesome.

I had an 'animated discussion' with some misguided kiwis who thought HONEY SMACKS were really called honey puffs - they did have some honey puffs jingle prepared. Then we walked down to the train station and caught the train up Jungfrau mountain.

As the brochure says, Jungfrau mountain is the top of Europe (did I mention we were in the Swiss Alps?) The trip was good, took about 1 and 1/2 hours to get to 3454m or 11333ft for you imperial folk. We went and had a look at an ice palace - which was..well cold. Then went out to the 'plateau' and had a snowball fight until our hands froze. After that we went to check out the sledge dogs (sled dogs..sleigh dogs?) which we were going to have a go on but one was injured so they weren't going. The man and Kara and Paul had a go on a flying fox but I was starting to feel a bit woozy so sat it out and offered to take photos. I got the man as a dot in the sky, got an average shot of Paul and didn't even get Kara in a photo. To be fair I was so dizzy and nauseous I didn't know if I was going to pass out or throw up..or both. I settled for sinking down to my knees in the snow.

We all decided it was a prime time to leave and pretty much slept all the way back down, in between snacking on pringles. I'm sure 3500m is nothing but it sure knocked me around for some reason.

When we got back we walked all over Lauterbrunnen looking for something to eat, which took ten minutes. We settled on beer and chips. The pub had internet for free, well if you bought a drink. The pub we were at was a meet up point for BASE jumpers so while we were looking at all the jumping paraphernalia we debated about what BASE stood for. Well the 'B' and 'S'. Then some random came up and asked us if we were jumpers. I think that was a pretty stupid question considering we didn't even know what the word stood for. Anyway the guy was saying they jump from as low as 35m and as high at 1500m.

After our snack we walked up to the waterfall which I'd been to that morning. The fact waterfalls are wet had not even occurred to me. Waterfalls are wet - remember that.

On the way back to camp we went to the camp shop and tried to spend up our swiss francs. I was desperate to find a red swiss shirt and hadn't found any in town. We found no shirts that interested me but bought the man a case for his army knife, some boxers and a small pair of boxers for me to wear as pyjamas.

We then headed back for dinner, and a surprisingly big night. Dinner was home made burgers which were decent. After dinner we went to the camp shop and stocked up big on beers which were 10 for 8.50 CHF (swiss francs were almost the same as AUD while we were there). Some of our group were heading to the pub but armed with our collection of beer we decided card games might be fun. Except I am just no good at them. I can never remember how to play and so have to re-learn each time which is no fun.

So the man's table was playing 500 while I started up a game of kings cup on the lower class table. Kings cup involves cards...but more drinking than card playing. Every time I play the game its with different people who have different rules. The American girls had some good rules, one was everytime you had to drink you had to first take the imaginary little green man off your cup, place him gently on your lap - drink - then pick up the little green man and gently place him back on the rim of your cup. It was international rules, so no pointing at people (which is actually hard to do), no saying the word 'drink' (consume works just as well though), no using peoples names (hard). Everytime you stuffed up you had to 'consume'. But not before you removed the little green man. This is on top of the actual game.

We moved our game down to the bomb shelter because it was getting a bit rowdy and some of the others had come back from the pub. A few of the site reps had joined in too. Then suddenly I got the last king from the deck - and had to consume the contents of the cup in the middle, which thankfully was only warm beer. Then all of a sudden there was a full on party. Chelsea Dagger came on and everyone was jumping around. Then Mecha had our day song put on and was passing around shots of red bull and something revolting. Which I declined because I was still digesting my warm beer. After I lost the drinking game I stopped drinking but still had fun filling up the empty shot bottles with beer, putting the cap back on and giving it to unsuspecting drunk people who thought I was AWESOME! Only two people picked up that it was beer. Immature - but fun.

I snuck off for a shower and bed and when I woke up only felt slightly seedy - yay! Awesome breakfast of pancakes and HONEY SMACKS then off to Paris!

- Jen