Up Up & Away!

“People were always getting ready for tomorrow. I didn’t believe in that. Tomorrow wasn’t getting ready for them. It didn’t even know they were there.”
— Cormac McCarthy (via likeafieldmouse)
FYI…

I have made my own tumblr, follow if you’d like :)
http://shuxitsraych.tumblr.com

Highs/Lows/Must-Sees

Warning: LONG post ahead!

Firstly, let me say that our Top Deck experience was an awesome one. It was well set-up, and our tour leader and driver were fantastic. Before we reached our next destination, Tia would give us bite-sized chunks of history about the place, which was a nice introduction to our stay.

Top Deck, like Contiki, are tours set up for 18-30+ year olds, and this is mainly due to the fast pace, the hostel-style accommodation (although there are hotel tours), and optional extras on the tour include pub crawls and parties, etc. But, never did we feel pressured in any way to take part in activities we didn’t want to do, and there was always plenty of things to do in the cities we stopped in.

Bus tours are the perfect way to see the best bits of Europe, and the good thing is all the planning is done for you! If you’ve never done a bus tour, prepare to get sick. It could be a cold or flu. It’s the combination of lack of sleep, air con, moving from place to place, and poor diet (snacking on those long drive days). The good thing is, getting antibiotics without a prescription is pretty easy in Europe (I got some in Nice, D got some in Venice). Tissues, antibiotics, throat lozenges and bottled water will be your best friend!

Now I’ll break down each place we visited briefly:

Singapore:

USE the metro.

GO to museums and art galleries.

SHOP!!!!!

GO to Marina Bay.

GO to the Zoo and Night Safari.

London:

GET an OYSTER CARD. It makes riding public transport a breeze.

All the museums and art galleries are MUST-SEES.

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum is NOT worth your $.

GO climb St. Paul’s Cathedral…BUT it could be an issue if you’re claustrophobic.

GO see a live show on West End.

EAT at a Jamie Oliver restaurant.

GO to Harrods, even if it’s just to use their toilet!

GO to EAT for yummy and healthy snacks/lunches.

GO to Camden Markets for cheap food, knock-offs, and funky market vibes.

Shop at Primark for affordable trendy fashion (trust me, EVERYONE ELSE DOES). 

Paris:

SEE the Eiffel Tower at night, it’s stunning! If you want to climb it, either get there early to line up or pre-book tickets online.

GO to the Louvre and use the secret entrance.

GO to the Notre Dame.

IGNORE the gypsy children trying to get you to sign up for things - it’s not legit!

EAT french pastries from cute little shops.

If you need a toilet, pay 50c for one in McDonald’s.

Switzerland:

We stayed in Lauterbrunnen which is a quaint little town surrounded by gorgeous scenery.

BUY a swiss army knife or a swatch watch.

EAT apple strudel.

GO to the snow. Go on the train up to Jungfrau and strip down at the top!

DRINK the alpine water straight from the stream. Best water I’ve ever tasted.

Nice:

GO to the markets - fresh flowers, bread, cheese, meat, fruit…it’s amazing.

GO to the beach.

Monaco:

GO visit the Grand Casino…just to say you have visited it. There’s a dress code!

EAT banana gelato.

Pisa:

BEWARE of people selling cheap knock-offs.

Take as many crazy photos as you can!

Florence:

Wander around… check out the cute little shops. 

EAT a pizza.

GO to the art galleries.

GO and climb the dome for the best views of the city, if you like tight spaces and stairs.

Rome:

DO a Vatican Tour (which includes the Sistine Chapel).

SEE St. Peter’s Basilica.

DO a Colosseum tour.

DO a ‘Ruins of Rome’ tour.

Explore the back streets…as long as you’re not by yourself!

Verona:

GO and rub Juliet’s bosom.

EAT gelato.

Venice:

BUY a Venetian mask.

GO on a gondola ride.

USE the water taxis.

BUY a piece of jewellery.

Vienna:

GO to Prater Park, no really… GO THERE.

GO to a classical music concert.

GO to St. Stephen’s.

Bratislava:

DRINK a hot beverage at cafe.

EAT a slacher torte.

Budapest:

GO to the Terror House.

Wander, explore…it’s a lovely city.

GO to the ‘Dive Bars’.

Krakow:

GO to Schindler’s Factory Museum.

DRINK a hot chocolate.

GO to the markets.

GO to the palace, cathedral and see Smok the dragon!

GO to Auschwitz. It’s life-changing (50km west of Krakow).

Prague:

Wander, explore, SHOP!

GO to the markets.

Take the tram.

Dresden:

SEE the biggest porcelain wall in the world.

Wander and take in the beauty.

Berlin:

DO a Third Reich walking tour.

GO check out the East Side Gallery.

BUY Ampelmann stuff.

Amsterdam:

DO a bike tour.

EAT their cheese.

GO to Anne Frank’s museum (we didn’t because the line was really long, so make sure you pre-book!)

SHOP!

GO to the museums and art galleries.

SEND home excess baggage because it’s 3X the price from London!

Bruges:

BUY chocolate.

And last but not least, here’s all the souvenir magnets we purchased from every country, as well as museums/places of interest, in order as requested by Dion:

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So…this is the end of the blog. I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading our journal…it’s been a good way of remembering what we’ve done! If you haven’t been to Europe, I strongly suggest you do :) 

Oh, and Singapore, that’s a great place too :)

Cheers!

- Raych & D

Day 36: Goodbye.

"Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened." – Dr. Seuss

So. The dreaded morning came. Time to attempt to pack my suitcase. Seemingly impossible:

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Michael Jackson (MJ) Banana was a little apprehensive about leaving…all he has ever known is Europe. I told him everything would be alright. (Thanks again Tia for gifting him to us!)

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I took afew pics on the way to Heathrow Airport…

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Did some last-minute souvenir shopping before we headed to the departure gate…

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"Goodbye London"

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12 hours later we reached Singapore for 1 & 1/2 hour stop sleep-over.

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Back on the plane to Auckland…

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Reached Auckland just before midnight, absolutely buggered. It’s surreal being back, I could honestly go back to Europe tomorrow, but there’s something about being back home that is so comforting.

Will do a summing-up of the trip in the next post…and will reveal our souvenir collection!

- Rachel x

Day 35: Peace.

"Architecture aims at Eternity" - Sir Christopher Wren

On a sunny London day we headed to St. Paul’s Cathedral, and on the way, for the first time in my life, encountered squirrels…and others without tails that were probably squirrels as well. They were really friendly.

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St. Paul’s just looks so impressive from the outside, no matter what angle you look at it:

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Here’s the front doors:

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Couldn’t take photos inside the main chapel or downstairs in the crypt, but we climbed up the dome to the golden circle to get awesome views of London:

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St. Paul’s is a really beautiful place and the crypt is full of great historical figures. I’m really glad I got to visit this place.

Raych found my cafe:

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Then later we met up with Hannah for lunch and those two went crazy in a store named Primark. Then we took the train to Chiswick where we watched the All Black’s win against South Africa in a pub. Then we had Thai for dinner. 

Raych won’t be seeing Hannah again til October next year, so she was pretty sad…

Love

Can’t believe we’re going back to NZ tomorrow…

- D