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Well, I'm back! We arrived at 12:55 this morning. I think I have jet lag, but not too bad because I don't feel that out of it, just sort of tired in a way that reminds me of the early days of Folio week.

Long flights are weird things. It still feels like it was just one day - woke up in the Walrus in London, went into town, saw snow, watched Top Gear, went to airport, got on plane, 13 hours, Singapore Changi airport, got on plane, 5 hours, Perth airport.

Long-flight plane food is heaps better than short-flight plane food, by the way. We had chicken tika masala and er, Chicken... curry... and it was gooood.

Watched a fair few movies - Public Enemies, which was good but surprising at the end, Bruno, which was actually pretty terrible - doesn't have the "unscripted" feeling that Borat had, and I think it was a bit too crude... and District 9, my favourite of the bunch. Too tired/lazy to say much more than that.

Might be time for a midafternoon nap, soon.

Proper entry laterrrrz

Um, there are various typos in here. Too tired to fix. Appologies. My favourite is dispoportionately.
I can't remember if favourite is meant to have a 'u' in it, or if it's just LJ's spell checker being reta- I mean American English.

Oh man nap time.


2009 meme )
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Everyone said that London was a bad place to go if you want to see snow (rhymes!), but today it snowed! So happy. It snowed pretty well, too. The snowflakes started out really tiny, like just frozen raindrops, and as it got going a bit they became clumps of frozen raindrops. It was fantastic fun! :)

Turns out that our flight leaves at 9:15 pm instead of 5:15pm so we have the afternoon to watch the snow through the window (it's changed to rain now I think) and tv.

The weekend - I am going to see how my parents feel about me having a bbq at my place. More details to come, probably? Party party.

Non-holiday related stuff - I'm reasonably sure that I want to get a Macbook Pro at some point in the not-too distant future (before I go back to uni next year definately), but I have some questions and I think people in the Livejournal universe may be able to answer them. :)

In which I ask boring questions about the 15 inch MBP )

Can anyone suggest a good mac community website where I could learn things/ask questions? All I've managed to find so far are dumb fannish websites with really biased reviews.

Pew-pew lasers.

I hope they feed us on the plane. I am going to be sooo hungry by 9pm tonight.
BA has quite good plane food actually.
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Yes, not something you'd expect from someone who is in London in December, but we've been plagued with lovely, sunny (yet freezing) weather, and damn it, the weather lady said it might snow today or tomorrow and I may not know much about snow, but I don't think that bright sunshine is a good sign.
So I want the sun to go away, and I want it to snow.

People should watch this. It's awesome.



I'm looking forward to going home now, as I think I've said, but I'll definately miss London. It's an awesome city. The only downsides to it are the weather and the huuuuuuge distance from home.

We overestimated how much money we'd need for food and such for our 9-day stint in the city, so we're going to splurge today and spend more than £4 between us on dinner - we're going to Nandos! Nandos in England costs the same number-value as it does at home - so it's about £20 for the two of us to eat.
Which is a fair bit... But it's still great. And Nandos here comes with bottomless softdrinks.
Mmmm.

But let me tell you about our amazingly cheap dinners!
So there's this supermarket called Iceland, where you can buy a 1kg bag of frozen veggies for £1, and a 1kg bag of frozen chips for £1, and deeeeelicious minted lamb chops for £3.

It sounds boring, but it's actually amazing. Because - and this is the bad bit - we cook the lamb chops in a baking tray in the hostel oven and then we cook the chips in the saaame baking tray after we cook the chops.
SO the result is amazingly delicious chips... But it's probably not very good for us.
I like to think that the veggies cancel out the badness of the other two... but I know that it doesn't.

How lucky is it that our flight is tomorrow and not next week? British Airway Cabin Crews are planning to strike over Christmas.
Striking has to be the most retarded thing ever. Ok, so you're not happy that you're not getting paid enough. But that's not the customer's fault.
Basically, BA is in a fair bit of financial trouble, from what I have heard, and they have offered staff wages cuts or they lose their job. This is what's causing the planned strikes. Yes, this sucks, but the company is in serious trouble. They have to cut jobs, they don't have a choice. If I was in control of BA staff, I know who I would fire first - anyone that strikes.
Er. I just really hate striking. It's the most inconsiderate, stupid thing ever. Strikes almost always hurt the customer/whatever more than it hurts the CEOS or whoever are making the strikers angry.

In another ranty rant, the Australian Internet Filter is retarded. Why the hell would you waste money on something that isn't going to stop everyone? Even if it's only going to slow our internet connections by a negligible ammount, our internet is already beyond woeful for a nation of our standing. In this hostel's average by English standards internet connection, on a computer that is in no way fast, we downloaded a movie in under 8 minutes. A whole movie. To do that at home on a pretty great connection takes hours!

ERRRR.

Well, gotta go pack, re-pack and weigh our bags now! It's a delicate balance. Basically if the baggage lady asks to weigh my carry on, we're boned. If she doesn't, we're sweet.

I'm going to catch up on aaaall my friends page stuff when I get home. And then I'll be a good LJ-user again.
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I said I wasn't going to update anyone about Egypt much until I got home so that I would seem more interesting... And I'm not going to. Ha! :P
I will share one thing though, my accumulated knowledge of Arabic words!
<lj-cut text="I know five!">

La! - no
Shokran - thankyou

These two words combine to form one of the more important phrases to have in your Egypt vocabulary. For some reason, "No, thankyou," doesn't stop people from hassling you. Sometimes, "La Shokran!!" does. The exclamation marks are entirely necessary. If you just say "La" you will offend people, and this will make them hassle you more.

Salam - Hello
Masalama - Goodbye
Sadik - My friend. Maybe. A taxi driver told it to me, and they are of questionable reliability at best, especially this one.

The spelling is probably all wrong, but you pronounce it that way. Kind of. Roll all the 'r's.

So, this is my meagre knowledge of Arabic. Also, 90% of camels are named Rambo, if it's a tourist who's asking.
</lj-cut>

Today though, Gavin and I fed squirrels in the park. Green Park, apparently. See, our incredibly loud Canadian dorm-friends left late last night and left behind a tin of roasted peanuts and some bananas, and I hadn't fed a squirrel successfully yet so this presented a big opportunity!

Squirrels are awesome. They're pretty bold and nowhere near as skittish as birds. Once they spot the fact that you actually have food rather than empty peanut shells (which is what we've tried to feed them with in the past - they don't appreciate it), they come running up to you from quite a long way away. Before long, they were climbing up our legs! They liked Gavin's jumper and he had more than one climbing up to look in his jumper belly pocket thingy for food, or up onto his shoulders. At one point squirrels were jumping on and off, and I had two squirrels on my legs, and I felt kind of like some kind of squirrel conveyor belt.
So that was pretty fun.

Home time in 6 days! It'll be good to have some nice sumery weather, and the beach, and of course catching up with everyone.. which naturally contains some amount of boring you all with photos. XD

Egypt-o

Dec. 3rd, 2009 02:18 pm
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Technically there's less than two weeks to go! Looking back it's passed pretty quickly, especially this Egypt portion. Egypt is awesome, although I have to admit that it'll be Ancient Egyptian things that bring me back here (if I ever go back), not modern Egyptian things.
I'm going to keep this short so that I sound more interesting when I come back and tell you all my stories. This is also why I haven't added any Egypt photos yet... to be interesting in the flesh. Ha ha!
Quite looking forward to coming home actually, I feel that the holiday has come to its natural end. It has been amazing. I can't wait to see everyone again! And to get back to Australia where the weather is always great and the people do things that make sense. Not that different is bad, it's just that travelling has made me appreciate Australian culture a little more, I think.

See most of you soon!
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Pretty excited. We're leaving on a plane at 9:15 tomorrow morning, actually. We're at a fantastic hostel in central London at the moment, (The Walrus Social, we stayed before, it's right on Westminster Bridge Road) so we just get on the underground at Lambeth North, which is on the Bakerloo line, change once to an 'Overground' train, then we hop on the express to Heathrow Terminal One.

Terribly exciting, wasn't it?

We handed the van back to Wicked Campers yesterday, it was a bit of an end of an era kind of moment. The only problem with spending so long in the van, where we didn't have to fit things into our suitcases & backpacks because we just kind of put it in the van and throw a duvet over it, is that now we have super amounts of stuff.

Hopefully we're flying British Airways all the way home because they only (seem to) charge you a flat £30 fee for hand luggage over the weight limit up to about 30kg, whereas Quantas charges you $50 per kilo that you're over. Which sucks, by the way. So yeah. *cough*
I have a bear who is dressed up as a red-coated bearskin (hat) wearing Queen's guardsman. His name is Winston and I ♥ him.

Agh, I cannot actually express how excited I am about Egypt. A little apprehensive, too, because I think this will be the biggest change in culture that I've experienced so far, but moreso because remembering not to drink the water, while seeming simple, may be a little hard, and food poisoning is seriously the worst thing I've experienced in a good few years.

AND my camera seems a bit bung lately. I think there's something wrong with the focus, because quite a few of my photos lately have been blurred or slightly out of focus once I get them onto a computer screen. (The most frustrating were my Stonehenge stone circle photos - argh!) But I have been learning new photography techniques, so hopefully I'll be able to get some good photos.

It was looking a really nice day outside, but now it's gone all grey and chilly. However, I still want to go to the park and feed some squirrels. Squirrels are awesome, although the grey squirrels that I've been seeing all the time are actually a horrible pest that are killing all of the native red squirrels, which are smaller and less agressive. We've only seen one red squirrel on the entire trip!

Looking forward to getting home now, although of course I'm still having a blast! It'll be good to catch up with everyone. I'm also looking forward to going back to uni (haha) because Europe and the UK have been so inspiring. I have so many ideas I just want to get stuck into!

Well, hope you're all doing well!

Hiiii

Nov. 5th, 2009 11:11 am
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So I have recently seen no less than three (3) kid's movies (or at least, pg-like movies), UP, 9 and The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus.
None of them were as happy as I think that kids movies should be! Why?
They were all a bit sad, 9 was pretty dark (and in the end I thought they could have done something else really obvious that would have been heaps better and less predictable... obvious and less predictable ? ..Yeah!), UP was just sad in places although definately the most joyous of the lot, and Imaginarium was dark-ish too. And sad! Why?!

I can't say much without spoilers. Yep.

Also I'm in Brighton, it seems a pretty cool place but everything only opens at 10am, so getting up at 7 and driving from Chertsey (West London) seems kind of pointless because it didn't take us 4 hours to get there like we thought it would. Oh well! It's a lovely sunny day.

Went to Charles Darwin's house yesterday. Pretty cool stuff!
Brought The Origin of the Species, should be an interesting read!
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Alas I don't have time for an entry. Sorry I haven't been commenting much lately, too - but I have been reading, honest!
But yeah, facebook, photos, and if I can figure it a video of a trebuchet firing a fireball! :)

Egypt in 2 weeks!
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Yesterday we visited Brú na Bóinne, which is a series of neolithic chamber toumbs in Ireland roughly halfway between Belfast and Dublin.

There's Newgrange (which was named relatively recently "new farm" by the Cistercians), one of the most famous chamber toumbs, or passage toumbs, in the world. It's oriented to the rising sun on Winter Solstice, so that the chamber is flooded with light just after dawn for I think 5 days surrounding the solstice.
We got to go right inside Newgrange, which was pretty cool. The chamber has an awesome vaulted ceiling that nobody has touched since it was built 5,200 years ago. It also hasn't leaked a single drop of water in that entire time! Remember that this is Ireland, where I think even fire is wet. So that was a pretty awesome thing.

Then there is Knowth, which is a lot bigger than Newgrange, the two passages within it are the first and second longest known to exist in the world. It's kind of a necropolis, too, because there are lots of smaller passage toumbs surrounding it. It also has I think something like 35% of Europe's neolithic (megalithic?) art on the stones that border the mound and within the major complex. Which is quite a lot!

Dowth, which means 'darkness,' apparently, in an ancient dialect of Irish or Gaelic. We didn't get to visit it, as it hasn't been fully excavated. I kind of think that this is a good thing. Interestingly, Dowth is oriented to the setting, rather than the rising, sun. Interesting. Spooky? That's what our guide tried to impose on us!

Yeah. Neolithic stuff is really cool.

Tomorrow we leave Ireland and head back into England. Well, Wales.
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I uploaded a bunch of photos to facebook of my adventures.
Let me know what you think!

They include a possible sighting of the Loch Ness Monster, and Robin Hood caught in action, among other things. Like miles, and miles of peat bogs.
Fun stuff, I promise, and it won't take you nearly as long to look at them as it did me to upload them on this slooow (but free) computer.
O_o

Erm. I'm in Londonderry, or Derry, which is an old and turbulent city in Northern Ireland. Tomorrow we'll probably see the Giant's Causeway, which should be neat.

Yep.

Bye, Livejournal!

Oh yeah

Sep. 28th, 2009 10:45 am
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Oh yeah!
When we were in Dublin we went to the Chester Beatty (Beaty?) Library and saw the world's first exhibition open to the public of a dead religion called... Er, Mani...churianism? Probably wikipedia Mani or Chester Beatty. Anyway.

What it is, is this thing called the "Sod of Turf." In the 1920s, discovered in a box in the deserts of Egypt was found a wad of papyri, and I really, really do mean a wad. They have what's left of it in this state on display and it looks like a slice of peat with writing on it. Really faint writing.
What they did was, by MAGIC, retrieve individual pages from this sod of turf, and managed to recover books from this religion that had been completely lost.

So yeah, that was pretty awesome, and I forgot to mention it yesterday. Crazy archaeologists! Probably with eye strain.
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I know, I should give up on trying to write out the Irish accent. But I love it so. Listening to the car radio has become a whole new brand of fun.

We've been lucky enough to get free internet tonight, AND free laundry! I can't explain how exciting this is. I have run out of socks, you see. The ones I'm wearing now, well, when you take them off, they smell like vinegar. Yep. I think they've started to ferment.

Yesterday, we did some spelunking on our own, private tour - just the two of us, and our lovely and enthusiastic Irish tour guide, who knew lots of things about rocks and junk. It's interesting though, because this is (why, yes, I have forgotten what it was called.. Er.. awkward... I'll get back to you on that!) reputed to be one of the best caves for formations in Ireland, and while they were very beautiful, they weren't nearly as plentiful or developed as the ones in WA - just another reminder of just how much older Australia is geographically than places like this. Plus, it's much drier at home so the sparkly crystalisation comes out a lot more. We only got to see 3 or so areas that had dried out and were all sparkly - apparently we were very lucky!

Also, there is a witch in the cave. It's an awesome rock formation that looks uncannily like a witch sleeping in the back of the cave. Neat stuff.

We also visited the Blarney Castle, and yes, I did kiss the Blarney stone. It's a lot harder... well, it's not exactly hard, but it is kind of tricky... than I thought. You really have to scoot right out over this big great hole, and then lean riiight back, because it is the very bottom stone. A few older people didn't quite make it but I did. :P

Er...
Oh yeah, we had TV last night. It was way exciting.  
Um. TINGS.

Ok, I'm done I guess. 


.....Yep 

And yeah. I like the song. It's caught in my head!
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Er, it had to be said?
Just a quick update to say that I am in Dublin and it is Guinness' birthday and it is craaaaaaaazy.
Had a half-pint, not too bad, markedly better than (other kinds of?) beer. Yeah.
So we saw a half-riot in the street, people were smashing bottles and glasses of Guinness in a mad, dancing circle, one guy was crying blood, and then the police broke it up. And all this before 7:30pm!

Way exciting.

We're in Ireland until the 6th of October. Wanted until the 8th but... but I guess you just take whatever customs officers give you, eh? We're going all around the coast. Can't wait!


And I am reading Pyramids by Terry Pratchett and it is so good.
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Whoo we've made it to a new (sort of) country.
I say (sort of) because TECHNICALLY England and Scotland and Wales are all <I>Britain</i> or the UK I suppose, and not actually separate countries. Which I never knew! I always thought Scotland was still fiercely independent. It's a pity that they're not any more, really.

We've been driving about for the past week-and-a-few-days in an awesome, awesome van. It's not quite a combie but if you remember the Tarago vans... mini busses ? Anyway. It's one of them converted into a camper van and it is painted wtih PAC MAN all over it. Yes.
It's a Wicked Camper, which is actually an Australian company. Yep.

So far we have seen SO MANY awesome things, but I am having trouble with this retarded keyboard so I'll just make a list for now:

- HMS Victory ( <3 )
- Henry VIII's Mary Rose and Queen Victoria's HMS Warrior, an Ironclad
- Cambridge University!
- Canterbury Cathedral!
- Nottingham! (The town is kind of sucky tbqh)
- SHERWOOD FOREST (so much love)
- the Major Oak, a 700-1000 year old tree of Robin Hood fame
- Many, many awesome castles and a Medieval manor house
- Hadrian's Wall! <3

We have actually done so much more than this list suggests. It's exciting. I've been keeping a paper-journal so at the least you will have the joy of suffering through my rambling in more detail when I get home.

So now I'm off to explore Edinburgh!

 

Have I mentioned that there is Nandos here in England / Scottland? Yeah. It's EXPENSOR here though. £20 for two people. But the soft drinks are bottomless!


Pommes!

Aug. 27th, 2009 08:11 pm
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Pomme is apple, or maybe puree in French. Actually I think Puree is probably Puree in French. But I'm referring, in this case, to the English. In fact. Yes.

London is cool. Just today we visited Hampton Court Palace. Henry VIII might have been a bit of a dick but he had taste. Or at least, his architect did. And his tapestry... techt.

Tomorrow we start our super hippie road trip of the UK in a combie van. Yess. I'm excited. I have to be brief because I only have 5 minutes left.
The internet is a bit hard to come by here. The mac store on Regent street is far from where we're staying on Westminster bridge road.

I think I will get a mac when I get back. The architecture community has had nothing but praise for their ability to run cad things and be good at stuff, so the only concern left is gaming - and to be REALLY , brutally honest the only PC game I've played in ages is WoW. Or the odd RTS, or Fable. And I can just steal Gavin's computer for those. Really. And I need more games for my Wiii anyway.

OH GOD I CRAVE PLAYING POKEMON SO BAD YOU HAVE NO IDEA.
I mentioned this months ago and it hasn't gotten any better.

I also brought Some Pratchett books for 1.50 pounds each (where is the pound button ffs), one of them is Soul Music and I'd forgotten just how good this book is. Yep.
That's all I have time to say!
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Let me say that London is awesome.
And also surprisingly inexpensive? I suppose it's because the Pound is so weak at the moment (for the Pound), but things are close to Australian prices when you double what you pay for things. Maybe it's just the area we're staying in, which is in a cute little Hostel right under Westminster Bridge... It's called The Walrus!
It literally is under Westminster Bridge. We can see the trains through the kitchen window, and they aren't far away. We can see the London Eye, too, and as it happens trains are a pretty easy noisy thing to sleep with. The noise of. Yes. That sentence was awful. Being in England aint improved mine Englifh none.

It seems like Old English used 'f' in place of 's'? Can anyone shed any light on this? Some of the carvings in Westminster Abbey were definitely words which today would be spelled with an 's', and the character in its place was certainly an 'f'.

Westminster Abbey is pretty awesome by the way! It's interesting, a lot of English architecture is very ornamented and flowery, yet somehow it manages to avoid ever being over the top. For example, Buckingham Palace! My favourite Palace so far, is extensively and beautifully ornamented, with gilt surfaces everywhere, and floral plasterwork (gilded, of course!) abounds. But it's never too much. Versailles occasionally became gaudy (because of unfortunate colour choices - Punk lime green, what the hell guys srsly), and the palace in Vienna was generally elegant but verged on the side of too much occasionally. Buckingham Palace, however, manages to toe that line with no slip ups.
Maybe I'm pre-disposed to liking it because so much of my own culture is British? I doubt it. But yeah, exquisite palace.

We've been pretty lucky with the weather here - we've been in London for a week now and haven't been rained on once! (It did rain today when we were inside though.) We even experienced a London 'heat wave' that got the locals very excited - for three days the temperature was at about 28-29, and for a few hours in the middle day in the heat wave it actually hit 30!
Bahahaahah.
You should have seen everyone, (maybe not everyone, but a goood portion) stripped down to their underwear or their bathers in Hyde park, sunbathing in the (30 degree!) heat. It's kind of bizarre. Poor people starved of sunlight I guess!

We visited Greenwich too, which is pretty awesome. I kind of travelled, I guess, and was present in 3 days at once - Yesterday, Today and tomorrow. Ah, time. I love it!

In other news, a casual check of the Australian and the UK apple websites has revealed to me that the macbook I was thinking about is (if I am right) nearly $200 cheaper than the same one in Australia would be. Interesting, interesting.
A$ 4,837 versus £2,252.01. Google tells me that the exchange rate is 1AUD = £0.506.
It's probably not worth that saving to go through the trouble of getting one here. Eh!
I thought it was a $1000 difference before and got a bit excited for a minute but I guess I pressed the wrong button, haha.

Bah, 5 minutes to go. Well, I hope you're all doing well!



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(Firstly, ran out of time to upload photos to the interweb because the stupid computers are so freaking slow and the COMPUTER ROOM CLOSED. Similar appologies if this entry turns into a WALL OF TEXT because this computer ate my formatting. Lawl.)

Since we can use the computers in Plus Camping Venice "Camping Alba D'oro" to upload our photos to our harddrives, I thought I'd be cunning and write up a few things in notepad while we wait and are eaten alive by giant mosquitoes. At least it's not bed bugs I guess. Actually I don't know, I've never had bed bugs.

So since we last updated, we've left the lovely Switzerland and ventured into the Austrian Alps in St Johan in Tirol. (Also spelt Tyrol, I think?) We stayed at Analise's hostel. Actually, it's more of a house. A house full of dead animals that she herself has hunted down and killed. And then probably eaten.

In the lounge there is a big scary bush chicken thing, leering over you as you try to make your toast or hot drink, and on the opposite wall are proudly displayed no less than 40 baby deer heads. (Judging by the size of the antlers.) Hidden in the corner are about 30 mountain goat skulls. And a painting of a fox with wooden bullets in it.

And let's not forget the entry hall, with a lifelike stuffed marmot waiting to greet you as soon as you walk in the door. Along with about 10 much larger 5 & 6 year old stag skulls, and some more creepy birds.

The front facade of the house was reserved for the largest antler spreads of all, made up of 7&8 year old stag skulls, and of which there were 4.

All in all the House of Death er, I mean, Analise's Hostel, was quite a nice place to stay, because it was very central to St Johan. Although, from the time we spent there, I think that anywhere would have been central to St Johan.

I almost forgot the most important feature of Analise's, actually! Hiding behind the liquor and spirits bottles in the dining room, lurked a taxidermied Wolpertinger! I asked Analise about it and, after expressing her surprise at my knowing about Wolpertingers, she told me that she "Caught it on her 50th Birthday." If I have enough internet time left when I finish uploading all our photos, I'll post my photo of Analise's Wolpertinger.

So in St Johan you have two mountains, one on either side of the town. The coolest named one, and apparently the most famous Mountain in the Austrian Alps, was Wilderkaiser. As if the sound of the German name wasn't cool enough, the translation into English is (I think) "Wild Kaiser." Or I guess Wild Emperor. Which is awesome.

The mountain we climbed was called K-*Something*-horn. Yes, I'm terrible, I can't remember what it was called, but I thought it was Wildekaiser until I was corrected by just about everyone. We did it the easy way this time though, taking a cable-car gondola up as high as it would go and then hiking up to the peak. Unfortunately we didn't have enough time to make the round trip to the peak and back, but we made it up to the second or third rock face, 20 minutes or so from the peak. Also I am woefully unfit when it comes to hiking, and I do mean woefully. When we stopped before we turned around, we were inside a cloud! It was pretty cool, but not as damp as I had expected. We couldn't see further than about 3 m, and as we were on a kind of sheer overhanging point, it felt like you were on the edge of the world, with nothing in the white beyond!

Then we fast-tracked it back down the mountain, taking a short cut through the steep, slippery grass instead of down the dumb muddy track. I picked up some flowers for the goats at the gondola stop on the way down. We only managed to lure out one clever goat with our delicious morsels before it started to rain, however, and once that happened we decided it was time to go back down the mountain. At the base of the mountain there was a community of Llamas!
 
Note that they cannot be brought with flimsy offerings of flowers. I retreated in defeat. :(

The next day we decided to go Canyoning. If you don't know what Canyoning is, it is basically clambering around in... a Canyon.
Abseiling down waterfalls, sliding down natural rock slides, jumping into rock pools, that sort of thing. Anyway it was totally awesome. The hihest abseil was 20 metres, and the highest jump (down a waterfall into a rockpool) was 7 metres. We only went for 3 hours, and I think a full day would have been even better because it took me a little while to get over the fear, but by the end I was fine.
The fear of dying horribly, that would be.

That night we went to the next town over, Obendorf, or maybe Oberdorf? Because there was a festival going on there. Essentially, cheap food and alcohol, and live traditional music, yay! The cheap food wasn't technically speaking cheap though, 6 Euros for a half chicken and a loaf of bread (while delicious) isn't strictly speaking cheap. 3 EUROS for a cup of Bacardi and Coke is though, woot woot. And the band played Waltzing Matilda as the ship pulled away from the quay played awesome instruments like an Accordian, and a Xylophone (who thought that people used the Xylophone as a serious instrument? If Only I'd kept at it...) and the GIANT HORN! The Giant Horn is way giant, I was mighty impressed with it.

And now we're in Venice. Venice is, I will say, a very strange city. It is entirely composed of over 150 islands, and is entirely encircled by sea. Lagoon, technically. I always thought it would have been built on a kind of river delta or something similar, but it is 100% made up of sandy lagoon islands. You can tell that the upkeep of a city in such harsh conditions (constant water damage from constant flooding, for example) gets both very expensive and very much abandoned in Venice.

Outside of the areas where you will find the ritzyest hotels and San Marco Square, the majority of buildings are in serious need of some TLC, with plaster coming away from the walls, rotting wooden shutters, doors or ornamentation, and sagging walls all in evidence.

You can also tell that Venice was built defensively because nobody in their right mind would want to build a city on shifting spits of sand in a lagoon today, let alone when Venice was originally built. They had to use piles to make the ground stable enough to build on! They used wooden piles which are still there today, except after all this time they have petrified and become even stronger than they originally were.

Considering what an intensive and expensive process it is to build with piles today, with our machinery and technology, it's easy to imagine that the first Venetians were in a desperate situation.
 
The other thing is that little effort has been made to make the city easy to navigate, which I think would have been a defensive tactic as well. If we thought it was easy to get lost in Bruges, Bruges has nothing on Venice. The street signs mean next to nothing, and even the directional tourist signs often lead you nowhere, or disappear after a few turns. Despite the shabbiness and obvious problems presented by a labrynthine city filled with more tourists than locals, I love Venice.
It has its own special kind of charm, perhaps from being a place that you can tell is alone in the world, a one-of-a-kind creature that has survived from long ago.

And I loooove Venetian shops! The Mask shops are amazing, there are such beautiful creations in there, all feathers and glitter and papier-mache, or in some cases leather. Sometimes the glitter and feathers are accompanied by Swarkovsky Crystals, too. Even though the traditional Masquerade-ball masks were amazing often beyond description, my favourites were the animal masks, just papier-mache and paint. They were traditional, and I could imagine animals in magnificent plays appearing behind the famous outrageous nose shapes from the traditional drama masks that I wish I could remember the names of. But they were all there! I really wanted to buy one, but they would have been even more impossible to pack and get home in one piece than all the Venetian glass I ended up buying. >_> <_<
 
And the glass! There are literally hundreds of stores with hundreds of artists, and no two stores really sells the same thing, because everyone has different skill levels, different styles and different tastes. After a while you can pick out the cheap stuff from the work of the masters though, and the lazy from the meticulous. Be carreful though! Some stores sell imported imitations, which while very cheap are not Murano glass. The cheapest authentic Murano that we saw was about 10 Euro, and the cheapest import was about 5, so the difference isn't that much ($20 for real or $10 for fake), but you absolutely notice the difference in quality.

And bag shops! All Italian Leather, a handful are reasonably acceptable in price. I'm currently looking for a very small satchel kind of handbag, and they have an awesome one here for 24 Euro. I didn't buy it though, but that is a story for later!

We checked out San Marco Basillica, which is the same age roughly as Notre Dame in Paris, which houses the famous Quadriga (sp?) (the famous at least 2000 year old bronze and brass horses), and an absolutely stunning mosaic ceiling, which depicts the entrire New Testament of the Bible in tiny glass pieces.

The Mosaic Ceilling took 300 years and 6 generations of Mosaic-craftsmen to complete. It's fascinating because you can see the artistic style morph through the ages - the first in the uppermost parts of the domes are obviously Medieval, no perspective, very little shading, very two-dimensional and static images. As you work your way down you can mark the discovery of things like perspective, figures in motion, shading. It's very impressive. Plus, because the Mosaic is in the Byzantine style, they are all placed at angles (the glass pieces, that is), so that they catch the moving sunlight or candlelight and glitter as if lit by a heavenly source. It's amazing to think that things like perspective in art had to be discovered! The floor of the Basillica is also very beautiful - 65 different types of imported marbles were used to create amazing geometric patterns, optical illusions, and various mythological beasts (like Gryphons) and floral designs.


You can really see the way that Venice is "sinking" - the Basillica is much too heavy for the wooden piles and compacted sand of the Lagoon Islands to support, so the floor has sagged in places and the walls seem to lean dangerously at times. However our tour guide assured us that the Basillica is not in danger - the Venetian government now makes regular concrete injections into the foundations to protect the precious building. And for the rest of the first day I think we basically browsed shops. That night we went to a Pool Party at the Plus Camping place which had a live band! They even played a Zeppelin song, and a whole bunch of Guns 'n Roses songs. Today we visited Murano Island, which is where all the glass factories are. Basically they were kicked out of Venice proper a few hundred years ago for starting too many fires. The glass factories are really impressive though, when you catch a real master at work. Yesterday we saw a guy make an awesome horse in about 15 seconds flat, and today we saw a dude making roses for a chandelier. We also saw a guy making some kind of bowl thing... but he was kind of crap. So we won't talk about him. AND NOW OUR PHOTOS HAVE FINALLY UPLOADEED. So I can put this on the internet and escape from the Land of Mosquitoes.

Whoo! I managed to half format the text. Photos one day. Le sigh.

ithika: (Default)
Switzerland is my favourite country so far!
We met up with [livejournal.com profile] caketime in Bern (Berne?) which was awesome! Bern is a nice place too, but hanging out with Mia for a day was the coolest :P We checked out the Parliament and the Tiergarten (sp?) Which is basically a small animal park. The deermouse is a very strange little creature. Then we did MOAR STUFF and finally we had dinner and we tried Swiss food, I had Rosti (grated potato...pie) with sausages... wurst? which was deeeelicious. And then it was time to say goodbye. :( Aw. But it was lots of fun, thanks [livejournal.com profile] caketime!

After Bern we went on to Lauterbrunnen, where we stayed at Camping Jungfrau holiday Park (or something) which is in "The Valley of 72 Waterfalls" (though I think we could only see about 10, but I guess it is summer or something.), which is absolutely amazing! In a million years when I can upload photos I'll post some, because you really can't describe how great this place was with words. And there were snow-capped Mountains!
We went hiking all around the place, both sides of the valley, and we went up to "The Top of Europe," Jungfraujoch, which is 3,454m above sea level (feet sounds more impressive - 11,333 ft.)
There was lots of snow on the mountain, icy snow. I ate some, and I didn't die or anything. It was delicious. I also made my first snowman. He was heeell badass. Well, he became it when Gavin put his sunglasses on him. Pictures to come! You just have to wait, oh, I don't know, a million years. Man I regret not taking a laptop! Oh well.

LUCERNE WAS NEXT ALLCAPS FOR FAST TYPING
The lion monument is the most moving war memorial I have ever seen, it's really nice. Lucerne is a great town too, it has Medieval Watchtowers and the ramparts and stuff are still intact and it was awesome.
HIGHLAND COWS I FED HIGHLAND COWS, I almost fed a Highland calf but Gavin discovered that my Swiss army knife does indeed conduct electricity, and I kind of yelped and the calf ran away. It was a sad moment.
Lucerne (Luzern?) Also has some really cool Medieval bridges which run over the super fast flowing river.

Does anyone know what date unit results are being released? I really want mine. :(

How are things with everyone anyway?

Yay!

May. 5th, 2009 08:14 pm
ithika: (Default)
My mum and I went shopping for some things for my (well I guess our... Gavin & I) trip! It was exciting.
I don't know why, but getting things for the trip makes it seem much more real than getting the tickets did. I suppose tickets are really just bits of paper, and don't really give you any sense of going away.

Buying a $15 travel hairdryer though? Yeah, that's a lot more exciting.
I'm so weird, aren't I?

Ok. So now - tripspam.
I dunno, I guess I'll put it in a cut to avoid irking people. :P

Europeeeee )

Yeeeees.... So that's... that's all, I think. Yep. Oh yeah, I decided I would update my Dreamwidth account set to crosspost to LJ while I'm away. That way I can give the Dreamwidth address to my parents to read if they want to, keep LJ updated and not have to worry about any messiness in between! Yay!

Yay!

May. 5th, 2009 03:07 pm
ithika: (strider)
My Mum and I went shopping for some things for my (well I guess our... Gavin & I) trip! It was exciting.
I don't know why, but getting things for the trip makes it seem much more real than getting the tickets did. I suppose tickets are really just bits of paper, and don't really give you any sense of going away.

Buying a $15 travel hairdryer though? Yeah, that's a lot more exciting.
I'm so weird, aren't I?

Ok. So now - tripspam.
I dunno, I guess I'll put it in a cut to avoid irking people. :P

Europeeeee )

Yeeeees.... So that's... that's all, I think. Yep.

January 2012

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