A Travellerspoint blog

Abu Dhabi, Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne (Last Post)

sunny 31 °C
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Our next destination was Abu Dhabi for a two day stopover. We were primarily here as Ash had been contacted while we were in Bratislava to attend a job interview. Long story short, it went well but the job didn’t work out (rotational 2 months on, 1 month off) which Ash only found out about when he attended the HR interview.
Due to Ash’s commitments with the interview, medical and meetings our sightseeing time was fairly limited however the boys made good use of the pool at the hotel while this was going on (they were happy just to chill!).
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We also saw a fair bit of the city during our stay and got a bit of an impression as to what it’s like living in the UAE.

We flew via Doha to Kuala Lumpur for an overnight stay on our way home. On our way out of Doha, we flew over Dubai and Ash got a good view of the city at night including the lit up ‘palm tree’ island where residential housing has been built.

We arrived in KL safely and found our way back to the apartments we stayed in prior to departing to Europe. This was our third trip to KL this year so we knew where we were going. Tania finally managed a hairdresser trip while the boys had a great swim in the pool. The following day we took the LRT and Monorail back to Berjaya Times Square for some lunch and a bit of shopping before our flight that night.

Well despite our severe lack of sleep on the plane, we managed to arrive back into Melbourne safely on the 12 November (this blog is way overdue too!!). It was busy but we managed to get through ok. Cameron and Lachlan couldn’t wait to get back to Nan and Pa’s house. They were ready to finish their holiday. And it didn’t take Cameron too long to pick up where he left off.
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Mum and Dad planned a family catch-up that evening and we surprised Ash’s sisters and their families with being home. It had been exactly 9 months since we left to go travelling and it was good to be back.

So where to now? Well we look like staying put in Melbourne now. Tania has just managed to secure a 6 month contract with Emergency Management Victoria, Ash is job searching and we are thinking about a school for the boys to go to. Working overseas is still a dream and firmly on the agenda but staying put in Australia will likely be the case in the immediate term. We have had a good catch up with family and look forward to catching up with more of our friends in the new year. We will keep this blog active in the event we take off again!!!

Posted by tollidaytravels 02:22 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

London & Brighton/Hove

overcast 10 °C
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It was great to be back in London again and to show the boys the sights. For those familiar with London, we ended up staying in Willesden Green which is located on the Jubilee line – north west of London centre.

Our first stop in London was Buckingham Place via Green Park where we timed it well for the changing of the Guards. All of the streets were packed with tourists waiting to catch a glimpse, and what a spectacle it was! Two processions of guards with an orchestra provided all the traditional ceremony for such an event, we can't believe this happens every day (or every second day during Winter).
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We headed through St James Park adjacent to Birdcage walk and found our way to 10 Downing Street, where we arrived within 5 minutes of the Kazakstan Prime Minister arriving. We could see a mass of reporters waiting on the inside and within 20-30 seconds the motorcade had entered the secure area – unbelievable timing.
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Off we went past Parliament house and Elizabeth Tower housing Big Ben, then we finally reached Westminster Abbey.
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This was on our must see list for Lachlan due to his interest in the English Kings and Queens (courtesy of Horrible Histories). Apart from many of the former Monarchs being buried here, it also has famous scientists, poets and writers and the tomb of the unknown soldier. We also enjoyed walking down the centre aisle remembering the footage of the royal wedding.

The following day was dedicated to a visit to the Tower of London. We had visited here before but we could only remember seeing the Crown Jewels. It also meant a bit more this time due to having more history knowledge under our belts. We were taken into the Chapel where we saw the graves of Lady Jane Grey and Anne Boleyn. We also went into the White Tower, refreshed our memories with the Crown Jewels and visited other displays in towers making up the inner walls of the Tower. We easily spent the full day taking in all the sights here.
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Our final sightseeing day was a day trip down to Brighton and Hove. We caught a bus round to where we lived in Hove and relived a few memories. The Palmeira pub just around the corner was still there and we enjoyed walking through St Anne’s park. It was great walking down the streets and lanes in Brighton and remembering all the good times that we had here. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t the best, but despite the strong wind and periodic rain, we managed a walk on the pebbly Brighton beach. So after a stop at a couple of pubs for drinks and dinner (as an attempt to dry off), we caught a train back to London (with a bit of reluctance).
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Unfortunately our time in London was cut short due to other factors, so off we headed to Heathrow for our flight out. Our destination will be subject of the next blog!

Posted by tollidaytravels 15:32 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

East and North England

all seasons in one day 12 °C
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Our Berlin flight took us to London Luton where we picked up a hire car for a week of exploration. We hadn't been back to the UK since leaving in 2000 (we lived there for about 2 years), but were keen to explore the Eastern side from England as we hadn't seen that area. So after overnighting in Bedford (close to the airport), we set off for York.
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We stayed in a town just outside of York call Harrogate. Wandering around in York, we met a volunteer collecting for the air ambulance who told us that people living in Harrogate had been voted as being the happiest people in England. It was definitely a lovely little spot, we picked it as we found some good accommodation there and it was a good spot for commuting into York.

We got a tip from Ash’s parents of the York Train Museum, which we knew Cameron would love. So on our first day of exploring we went in and toured the Museum. It was well worth the visit, and we easily spent 3-4 hours wandering around all the exhibits. No prizes for where the script writers from Thomas the Tank Engine got their inspiration for some of the engines. In particular, ‘Stephen’ whom we found in the Great Hall.
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A trip to York wouldn’t be complete without a trip to York minster along with a walk around the town. Another cathedral to look at (boys were totally over it) but beautiful nonetheless. Despite the periodic rain, we also managed to walk around part of the old wall too. We went back the following day to visit the Jorvik (Viking) centre. There has been a number of excavations around York which have discovered old Viking Ruins and the exhibit provided details of what was found and an insight into how they lived. It was well worth the visit.
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After overnighting in Grimsby, we visited the city of Lincoln after getting a heads-up from the hotel manager. The Lincoln minster and castle on top of the hill were both beautiful and a great lesson in history. It was originally built by William the Conqueror within a couple of years of him winning the Battle of Hastings and has been altered and expanded over the years.
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A highlight for the visit was seeing the Magna Carta (originally issued under King John) on display along with the Charter of the Forest, which were both signed by Henry III. There was also a prison within the Castle walls and courthouse which is still active today. One room at the prison had samples of clothing worn by inmates and people working there which Lachlan and Tania had some fun trying on.
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We even managed to observe Halloween with a bit of dress-up
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Our final stop for our road trip was to St Albans to see our good friends – Dom and Emma -from our time living in Hove. Actually Ash met Dom when he first started work at Ecobalance in Arundel. It was fantastic to see them and a good chance for us to meet each others children. We managed to catch-up on around 15 years in the space of an afternoon and early evening. We also went for a drive and visited some old Roman ruins nearby. We stopped at a pub which has a claim of being the oldest in England to enjoy a drink together (certainly did look quite old!). Dom and Emma’s house was also ranked as the best place ever by Cameron solely due to the great wooden railway tracks which were kindly provided to him. We really enjoyed seeing them and had a great time. Next time we won't wait so long for the next catch up!
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So after an overnight stay in Hemel Hempstead and tackling the magic roundabout (5-6 roundabouts within one!), we headed back to Luton Airport to drop off the car and catch a bus to London, the subject of our next blog!

Posted by tollidaytravels 15:12 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Berlin

semi-overcast 8 °C
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We found it a bit interesting to get out of Budapest and it took us quite a while to decide where we could go next. Balancing the budget against seeing new things and avoiding covered ground is tough. There were also border closures due to the current refugee crisis which would make either our travel in or back out again a bit tricky. In the end, we decided on a flight to Berlin and seeing the city as we had contemplated before arriving in Europe.

First impressions on Berlin were great, we liked the feel of the place. Transport was excellent as well with lots of options on train and buses to catch. They had double decker buses which the boys enjoyed a lot. We allowed for two big sightseeing days here and a bit of walking to cover the ground – which we seem to be getting used to.

Our first day was finding the Berlin Wall line near Potzdamer Platz, following this past the Jewish memorial and then to Brandenburg gates. Berlin is slowly reinstating a two brick wide cobblestone (see second photo) marking the location of the 3.6 metre high concrete slabs which divided Berlin City into east and west. Although construction of the wall was more than a concrete slab as we learned later.
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There is a very interesting Jewish memorial, a replica of Jewish graves (1000+) to mark the atrocities of Jewish removal and extermination.
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Then on to Brandenburg gates which positioned just within the Eastern side of the former border.
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After that, we found a great park and play equipment for the boys to burn off any remaining energy that they had. This is the German Victory monument which we found on the way home.
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One thing we have realised from this trip is that there is a lot of history (too much) to take in over your life time. There is nothing like visiting and staying in a place to really have this brought to your attention. The aftermath of post World War two is no exception and our next day of sightseeing took in the area around what the American’s called ‘Checkpoint Charlie’.
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Berlin was well within East Germany but split into four occupied zones post the war – French, British, American and Russian. Checkpoint Charlie is the border between the US and Russian occupied zones. We visited an excellent exhibition which detailed the actually construction of the wall, various escape attempts and a very good account of the subsequent Cold War. Maybe it was the age that we were when the Wall was there and when it fell (mid teens), but neither of us really had a good understanding of the full picture about what had happened and how it related to this war and subsequent conflicts (ie Korean and Vietnam wars). It felt like jigsaw pieces falling together, in line with everything else we’ve seen over this trip!.

After 5 days, it was time for us to move on and so we boarded our flight to our next destination – the United Kingdom

Posted by tollidaytravels 18:05 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Budapest

rain 10 °C
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Well Budapest certainly lived up to its reputation, what a beautiful city.

Unfortunately, for Tania and the boys they nursed colds throughout our stay here; the weather being a lot colder and wetter than what we have been used to, so the first few days were spent in the apartment catching up on schoolwork and getting healthy again! We got out and about again soon though and finally got to see the city, which was noticeably more lively than Bratislava (no surprise) and we saw heaps of the riverboats/cruises that head down the Danube! Beautiful boats.

We made the most of the Hop-on-Hop-off bus system again (it worked so well in Prague!), and checked out The Citadel, the Royal Palace (where the Austrian-Hungarian empire was based, along with Prague) and Castle Hill, and the absolutely gorgeous buildings at the hot spring baths on Gellert Hill (Budapest is famous for it’s hotsprings, famous for having medicinal qualities, and there’s even beautiful Turkish baths left from when the Turkish occupied Budapest).
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The Citadel holds a lot of history, unfortunately, once again, mostly related to war. The Battle of Budapest was one of the biggest battles of World War II between the Russian and German forces. This also meant that all of the beautiful bridges that had joined Buda and Pest (actually two different cities until recently, which we didn’t know) where blown up by the retreating German forces. These have since been rebuilt, but apparently it took a long time to do so (some buildings haven’t been fixed, we could still see bullet holes in the walls of a building near our first apartment). Lucky they weren't recent!

The Hungarian Parliament building is absolutely sensational, we didn’t go inside (you have to pre-book visits) but the outside is amazing.
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Despite the brilliant history and buildings we were shown on the hop-on-hop-off bus, we got the most excited when we saw the building used in the opening scenes of the Underworld movie starring Kate Beckinsale. Very Cool!

Hero’s Square was a huge memorial to the Magyars, the original settlers of Budapest in the 10th century. The Hungarians are very proud of this, they still call themselves Magyars, after over 1000 years.
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We visited Vajdahhunyad Castle, a bit of an eclectic mix of buildings that isn’t really a castle but was actually built for an exhibition in the 1800s and was so popular that they left it there. We actually liked it more than the Royal palace, it had a lot of character and was in a beautiful park setting.
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Lastly, we had to at least pretend we were on one of the fancy river cruise ships by taking a night cruise down the Danube on our last night! The Palace and Parliament buildings were even more beautiful at night.
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We really enjoyed Budapest, we found some great traditional restaurants with great beer, did lots of walking around (yet again, the boys are getting used to it) and learned even more fantastic history. Our brains are bulging with historical facts now!
On to Berlin……….

Posted by tollidaytravels 17:39 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

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