Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Final set of photos from Europe

April 7th, 2011 No comments

So Kieran has finally managed to get his photos up from Europe.

2010 in Review

January 3rd, 2011 No comments

2010 started quietly for me on the blogging front, apart from my Twitter updates my first real blog post was about the 10:23 Homeopathy Overdose Project (which I was unfortunately unable to attend due to work commitments) and my strongly worded letter to David Cameron.

February was another quiet month on the blog front although I did spend a week in the Lakes and come hoem to find my house was flooded which left me without a PC for nearly a month.

March saw me foolishly making some long term plans about future living arrangements as well as celebrating’s 3rd birthday. I also gave up my car to cut down on costs and get ready for city centre living.

A good friend of mine was deported in April and threatened with death on his return to his native Pakistan. Leeds Atheist Society ran Reason Week 2010 and I started following Major League Soccer.

In May I spent a lot of time preparing for my speaking engagement at CWF’s Enquiry conference in Birmingham. I also split up with my partner and moved in with Chris and George.

June was world cup month, so the less said about it the better, but I was hardly in a celebrating mood following the events of the previous month.

I spent most of July running around the country with work, really throwing myself in to my job.

Blackpool started their Premier League campaign during August and I started to really get ready for my trip of a lifetime. The month finished with a really great weekend with Sarann at Solfest.

Eurotrip 2010 took up September. In three weeks Chris, Kieran, George and I took in Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Munich, Salzburg, Venice, Verona, St Gallen, Montreux, Monte Carlo and Jard-Sur-Mer. I also turned 26.

October was a catching up month. I was working a lot to pay off Europe and to make sure that I got my best ever performance review to date.

I was off around the country again in November. Taking in an audience with Greg Epstein and a load of gigs.

December saw me celebrate the success story of Blackpool FC’s season in the Premier League so far as well as the contribution made by their manager. I also found time to go and see Tim Minchin thank god for Sam’s Mum’s Cateracts.

As you can see, it has been a mixed bag of a year. Some real highs in the form of Eurotrip and the number of gigs I’ve managed to catch, but also some real lows.

I think 2011 might be OK, there are some things that I am already really excited about seeing how they pan out as well as some concrete plans to go to Dublin, Malta and maybe even back to Verona over the summer. I also have some great work to do with some of the organisations I support i.e. the AHS and BHA as well as continuing to build up my own career and developing some projects of my own.

Here’s to you 2011.

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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.


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.


September 13th, 2010 1 comment

View from the water bus through Venice, Italy

We made it across the Alps! Moreover, we made it one piece, which is especially surprising as pretty much every Italian that owns a motor vehicle seems out to kill us! Between the crazy overtaking bus and the manic tractor drivers I am pretty sure that my remaining hair is now all grey. Luckily I had the pleasure of driving through Austrian Alpine passes and lanes before hitting the main roads to the South, rather than the Italian leg.

The drive through Austria was simply stunning, even the inclement weather didn’t dampen (excuse the pun, but George has infected us all) the experience. We had one hairy moment when about half way up a 3km climb (1 in 7 or 15% gradient) we got stuck behind a coach. There is something very scary about doing 30mph in 2nd gear at 4000rpm.

Boats instead of cars is the order of the day!

The technical driving didn’t finish there either. I needed to get back down the hill too!

After all the shenanigans en route, it was with a great relief that we crossed the causeway into Venice and parked up for the night. Following a 40min water bus ride along the grand canal we stepped onto Venice at the Piazza di San Marco. We then promptly got lost!

I blame Kieran, but getting lost in Venice is so easy to do. There is no obvious frame of reference for a start, followed by the labrynthine nature of the city, which means that everywhere looks the same.

A quick call to the hotel ended our walkabout, as we managed to find our way following their directions.

Norm in Venice, baby!

At this stage it’s probably worth mentioning that I am blogging from my Blackberry as I had a minor mishap with my hand luggage, i.e. I spilled a drink all over it, or rather my drink burst all over the inside. This has made all my electronic gear, including my laptop, very soggy. It also destroyed most of my postcards and presents too!

I am currently trying to dry most of it out, so hopefully it will all be fine for tomorrow. So sorry about the lack of pics and links.

Venice itself is amazing. My favourite stop so far. The city is just so enchanting it’s unbelievable. We saw quite a lot from the water bus along the grand canal, but I really like the city in the evening. Wandering about the shops and alleyways is pure magic. Definitely made up for the fact that Italians all sleep from 12-3 everyday!!

If my laptop works tomorrow I will add some pics to today’s post and yesterday’s post for your viewing pleasure. Please keep your comments coming as it really is great to know that people are sharing in the trip.


September 12th, 2010 No comments

Taking a break from the glorious architecture of Salzburg, Austria

Today was a stunning day. The drive from Munich to Salzburg via the back roads and country lanes was by far the most glorious so far. We had fantastic weather, amazing sunshine the entire route, as well as some cracking German roads which meant we made fairly good time after a minor delay in Munich.

Following a proper continental breakfast in the hotel, we headed South from Munich towards the Austrian border. The road was flanked by corn fields and houses that would not have looked out of place on the set of The Sound of Music. The roads were nice and twisty, without feeling too dangerous and virtually no ravines for us to fall into.

First, and only, serious injury of the trip. George managed to cut his finger on his razor blade!

The last hour of the drive was dominated by the looming Alps and I have decided that I would really love to spend some time living in the part of the world.

We arrived in Salzburg at around 4pm and pulled up to our Gasthof which is truly fantastic. It is so traditionally Alpine that I half expect to see Heidi walk round the corner at any second.

Salzburg is a beautiful city, the Aldstadt (old town) in particular. Very classical in its architecture, there is a stunning building everywhere you look from the domineering Schloss overlooking the main squares, the prince’s residence that stands in the main square to the many statues that are dotted about the various platzes and passage ways.

Yummy. Pint of Dublin's finest.

I was intially concerned about our visit here as everywhere we encountered seemed very closed. It appears that the Austrians take the sabbath very seriously. Once we made it to the very centre of the old town we found a few nice cafes and bars open for us to wander around.

We stopped at a little cafe for some home made lasagne before hitting the local Irish bar for a well earned pint of Dublin’s finest. For a beer that travelled such a long way, it tasted pretty damned good!

Tomorrow is going to be a fantastic day, we have a drive through the Alps to Venice in Italy. The weather forecast is not great, but I’m hoping it won’t spoil the views.

As always, you can follow my updates on my blog, via Twitter or live on Kieran’s website.

Residenzplatz in Salzburg, Austria


September 11th, 2010 1 comment

Chris driving along the autobahn in Germany

Today’s post is going to be quite short as we only sourced internet a short while ago and it has been a really long day. We left Luxembourg about 9.30 this morning and headed straight for the motorway. We decided to burn through the best part of 300km on the autobahn to make sure we had plenty of time to meander through the Bayern region of Germany just north of Munich.

Motorway driving, whilst not too difficult physically is pretty tough on the concentration levels, especially given that drivers on the continent seem not to be able to see our car and just pull out in front of it all the time. This meant that we were all pretty tired by the time we stopped for lunch in the town of Gunzenhausen (best place name so far in my opinion). I took the last leg of the journey, driving the 100km or so from Gunzenhausen to Munich.

Me, sat in the back enjoying the views across Germany

We arrived in Munich at about 6pm and headed straight into the city (about a 25 minute walk from our hotel) to the Hofbrauhaus where we enjoyed some traditional Bayern food and drink. I went for Brockwurst (smoked sausage) and German potato salad, George went for Wienerwurst (Viennese sausages), Chris went for Chicken and Kieran had some roast pork. Kieran also washed his down with a stein of lager (a full litre no less).

Tomorrow is Austria and Salzburg, which is only a couple of hours away from Munich, where we plan to chill out and get lost amongst the buildings and people. I am really looking forward to our first short drive and our traditional Gasthof!

Keep following my Twitter feed or our real time progress and keep commenting on my posts as it really does make the late nights worth while!

First batch of postcards should leave tomorrow or Monday, so for those that ordered them you should get them in a week or so.