Archive for September, 2010

Travel bug

September 29th, 2010 No comments

So, well and truly biten by the travel bug since my return from Europe at the weekend, I have been looking with envy at all my friend’s travel plans. An old uni friend is heading off to West Africa for the best part of four months starting in October. She has started a blog to keep track of her progress so I recommend you all keep an eye on it and leave encouraging messages!


I’m back

September 28th, 2010 No comments

I’m back in the UK following my trip to Europe. Will be adding some blog posts over the next few days on a few of the ideas and thoughts I had whilst sitting by the pool drinking mojitos.

Protected: Eurotrip Photos

September 26th, 2010 Enter your password to view comments.

This post is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

What I have been up to this week 2010-09-26

September 26th, 2010 No comments


September 23rd, 2010 No comments

The pool at our gite.

With only a couple of days left of our trip round Europe, I thought I would write a quick post from our gite in Jard-sur-Mer, France to sum up the last few days and throw out some thoughts on the trip as a whole.

We have been staying in gite in a little village just north of La Rochelle where the order of day has been swimming in the pool and drinking rather large quantities of beer and cocktails. This frivolity has been interspersed with good cheese and plenty of barbecued steak!

We really haven’t done much, although this has entirely been by design due to the 3000 miles we had clocked up on our whistle stop tour of Western Europe.

The Atlantic ocean - the third sea of out trip!

I have enjoyed the relative serenity of the Atlantic coast and have caught up on reading and quiet contemplation, but I do rather miss the channelled excitement of venturing into a new city and the joy of the open road (even the Italian ones).

I’m really glad I got the chance to do this trip and I have made a decision about what order to visit the cities we have encountered en route. Venice and Salzburg were two cities that I am already looking forward to revisiting and Luxembourg still holds some pull due to the fact we only got a taste of its allure.

Part of me is a little surprised that the four of us managed to live so closely for so long without any major eruptions or falling outs, but maybe those fears were unfounded as we have all spent plenty of time together in the past.

Beer shelf!

The photos from our trip are starting to appear on Facebook and Twitter. Kieran’s website is still tracking our hashtag and movements, so check it out for developments over the last couple of days of our trip.

Our ferry back to the UK departs St Malo at about 10am on Saturday so we should be back in Leeds in the early hours of Sunday morning when real life must start again.

What I have been up to this week 2010-09-19

September 19th, 2010 No comments

Monte Carlo

September 19th, 2010 No comments

Casino de Monte Carlo, Monte Carlo, Monaco

I apologise for this post being a couple of days late, but with the end of trip involving some pretty mammoth drives and not much sleep I chose the latter over posting. If that makes me a bad blogger then I don’t care.

I am writing most of this post from poolside at our French gite just outside La Rochelle in the Vendee region of our continental neighbour. Got croissant and pain au chocolat for breakfast!

Whilst Montreux was one of the quieter stops on our tour we knew Monte Carlo would be one of the maddest. A 9 hour drive across the highways of Switzerland and Italy, an Alpine pass that had a lot in common with the road into Hades and more tunnels than I’ve ever encountered en route to anywhere saw us pull into the tiny principality of Monaco.

A quick beer at a local bar, turned into a long chat with an ex pat from Zimbabwe and an Italian. We couldn’t work out what line of black market business they were in, so I am sticking to my guess of arms dealers or human traffickers.

We then headed for dinner at a small Thai place to keep up our tradition of trying new things. The food was both tasty and very very spicy, which is apparently the Thai way.

A quick costume change saw us get suited and booted for our long awaited trip to the Casino de Monte Carlo. The casino is famous for its appearances in film (including the Bond series), TV and the famous Monaco grand prix. It really did live up to its billing! A stunning building inside with fantastic painted interiors and every bit as luxurious as I had been left to believe. Well worth lugging our suits around Europe for!

I couldn’t afford to put money on any of the gaming tables as roulette had a minimum stake of 10 euros (min table change of 200 euros) and the black jack tables were 25 euro minimum bets. As I couldn’t visit a casino without some gambling, I put 10 euros in the slot machines!

The cars outside the casino (including one with my number plate NR2) and the yachts in the harbour confirmed Monte Carlo’s reputation as a millionaires playground. I liked the city and lifestyle that it attracted, but I did get the feeling that it was all a little one dimensional and we had pretty much done Monaco in a night.

This was probably a good thing as the morning after was going to see us drive 1000km in 11hrs!

This is pretty much my last blog post for the trip as we are now settled at our gite in France. Keep up with the tweets at my Twitter feed or at Kieran’s site.

I will probably post some pics etc up on Twitter too.


September 16th, 2010 No comments

The view from our hotel in Montreux, Switzerland

.This is the penultimate blog post for the driving part of our European road trip. Tomorrow night we stay in Monte Carlo, Monaco then we head to France for a week of chillaxing on the Atlantic coast.

The drive through Switzerland today was a tale of two halves. The first was a twisty turny drive through central Switzerland followed by a rush through the motorways of the south western region of the country.

We set off from St Gallen at around 11.30 after a brief wander around the old part of the city and the monastery buildings (which make up a world heritage sight). We arrived in Montreux at a little after 5pm. Following the Alpine scenery of yesterday was always going to a be a tough job, but Lake Geneva has managed to do a darned good job!

My Blackberry didn't capture the actual sunset particularly well, but this is the best one I got just before the sun started to sink.

The lake is really beautiful, and the mountainous backdrop adds a real sense of drama. Montreux sits on the ‘Swiss Riviera’ and enjoys a much milder climate than the surrounding region.

We watched the sun set behind the mountains whilse enjoying some fantastic French/Italian fusion cuisine. Kieran had mussel pizza! I enjoyed a great (in both taste and size) bowl of moules marieniere et frites.

I am writing this post sat on the lake terrace of the hotel enjoying a cold beer; and whilst I have enjoyed every second of the trip so far, I am really looking forward to some well earned rest and relaxation in La Rochelle.

I will be posting a few times in France, but it won’t be every day. Please keep commenting on my posts and following my Twitter feed

St Gallen

September 15th, 2010 No comments

Our first Swiuss tunnel!

Still no working laptop, but that may be more to do with stupid Swiss plug sockets than anything else. I mean who uses hexagonal plugs?

For those that have had their head in the sand for the last few days, today is my birthday. I spent 5 hours of it driving and 6 hours of it as a passenger. I had a curry and a beer and I got a mug off Chris.

The rest of this post is going to consist of me trying to do some sort of justice to the breathtaking scenery we experienced today.

We left Verona around 9am to drop Chris off in Milan before the rest of us headed for Switzerland. The drive to Milan was pretty enough, mostly Italian farms and villages. However, I will never forget the experience of driving into Milan and then out of it. In fact it hardly counts as driving. It is 90 per cent stuck in total gridlock followed by 10 per cent total chaos. If any rules of the road are observed I have been completely unable to detect it. Also, there is nothing more terrifying as a driver as being able to hear mopeds and motorcycles around you but being unable to see them as they swarm around the sides of your car! It was absolute mayhem.

The Swiss Alps as we clibed over them looked so dramatic.

Once Chris was safely deposited at his hotel we turned north and headed for the Swiss border via Lake Como and St Moritz.

Lake Como is beautiful, tranquil and full of famous people. Unfortunately, we were too busy negotiating tunnels, bridges and berserk lorry drivers to experience it. The vistas were amazing though.

We then started our ascent of the Italian Alps towards St Moritz where we climbed a few hundred metres in no time at all and saw the temperature drop over 15 degrees centigrade.

We headed over the Juliper-pass from St Moritz to Bovio, which peaks at over 2200m above sea level (that’s about 6600 feet). The views on the pass were out of this world.

Basically half the roads on Switzerland were under construction it seemed. This one is on the highest mountain pass in Switzerland!

The sat nav was set to avoid motorways in Switzerland as the tolls and charges are pretty high, so we were heading north when we suddenly found ourselves passing through a military camp. At first we thought that we had taken a wrong turn, but apparently the A13 happens to go through one of the old border stations on the Swiss border. It wasn’t long after this that we noticed another strange marker on the sat nav. We had driven over the border into Liechenstein. This is apparently the optimum route to St Gallen from Milan!

We eventually arrived in St Gallen at about 8.30pm after 11hrs of solid driving. We were so tired we just wanted to eat and head to bed. This, however, turned out to be an issue. It seems that no where is open in St Gallen after about 6pm so it took us ages to find a restaurant. We eventually stumbled on a little Indian place so we plumped for a nice birthday curry. We also realised just how expensive everything is in Switzerland (so thanks Mum).

One of many pictures I tool whilst Kieran was driving.

This post originally had no pics as it was written on my Blackberry. I have now added some pics to it [edited 26/09/2010]. I am going to post a load on Twitter right now, so get over there to check them out.

Tomorrow we head to Montreux and Lake Geneva for some R&R before our last day on the road in Monte Carlo.

Last few days to follow our real time progress on Kieran’s website.

Please keep the comments coming in as I love to hear from you. You can also SMS me if you have my number (it’s free from a UK mobile), email me or leave me a message here.


September 14th, 2010 No comments

Well my laptop is dead. So rest of posts will be made from my Blackberry, which means no pics. What I will do I’d try and upload some pics as separate posts when we have wifi connectivity. I’m not going to post them on 3g.

Back on topic, we have spent a 2nd day in Italy today. The first time on the trip we have spent consecutive nights sleeping within the same national borders!

Crazy Italians put aeroplanes on their buildings!

We left Venice for Verona at around 1pm having spent the morning walking through the narrow streets and soaking in as much of the history and magic of the city as possible.

It is impossible to describe how completely bewildered yet enchanted Venice has left me. If it were possible to form a romantic attachment to a city, Venice and I would be starting some some of affair right now.

Anyway, enough of the hyperbole and cliche. We decided to shun the motorways and highways of Italy for some country roads on our hop from Venice to Verona. We experienced some great rural scenery and some colourful Italian driving! I could (and maybe will) dedicate a whole post to the crazy and apparent random nature of Italian driving. I haven’t had the pleasure of driving in Italy yet, but part of me is looking forward to the experience and the other half is saying it would rather climb a mountain in 2nd gear behind a coach!

One of the many ornate monuments and churches in Verona, Italy

We arrived in Verona in the early evening and headed straight out into town. We wandered the old town streets, taking photos of old churches and marvelling at the architecture and culture of this Shakespearean corner of Italy until we decided to get down to the serious business of eating and drinking some of Italy’s finest exports. Namely lasagne and wine. I was responsible for lasagne and Chris for wine, and I think we handled our tasks well, even if our waiter interpreted a glass of sweet white wine as a glass of rich red.

A few beers later we headed off to finish our odyssey by visiting the Casa da Giuletta. Unfortunately, the courtyard was closed for what looked like a private photo shoot, but we could see enough to make out the fact that most people thought that touching the bosom of Juliet’s statue would bless their relationship.

Tomorrow is my birthday, which will be spent crossing the Alps into St. Gallen, Switzerland. Apparently the town’s university has one of the most ornate libraries in Europe.

As always, please keep up to date by visiting my homepage or on Twitter. You can follow our real time progress on Kieran’s page here.