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It’s taken 2 years but we’ve finally completed our 100 Things List. And by completed, I purely mean every blank space has been filled – it’s going to take quite a bit longer to actually complete every task. We first posted the list with about 60 items on it – most were pretty easy or things we knew we would be doing in SE Asia or shortly after arriving in the UK.
But the travel we’ve done, and the people we’ve talked to, have opened our eyes to much more exciting things than going to a U2 concert (sorry, Bono). This is evidenced by our list getting more and more exciting and complicated as you read through it. To be honest, I don’t know how we’ll manage to cross a couple of those new items off, but we’re going to try!
So we’ve filled our list, but we also went back and tweaked a few that no longer excited us. What was ‘Go to a U2 concert’ is now ‘See orcas hunt sea lions on the beaches of Punta Norte Peninsula Valdes, Argentina‘. I still want to go to a U2 concert, but seeing orcas hunt? Infinitely cooler.
Most of you are probably aware of a little event that recently took place in Brazil. And if you’ve been following us for a while, you’d know number 17 stated that we wanted to go to that World Cup. Obviously, it didn’t happen! So now we’re just going to settle for a World Cup, anywhere that works out (though likely not Qatar!).
We ticked off riding a camel while in Egypt and after my experience, I don’t need to do it again…in Morocco, or ever. We would, however, love to say that we’ve stayed overnight in the Sahara desert so that’s now number 25.
As much as I love hockey and will hopefully still see Modo play live, number 59 has been switched to ‘Climb up to Taktsang Palphug Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) in Bhutan’. Another country, hike, and who doesn’t love monks?
We plan on going back to New Zealand and will definitely visit Milford Sound so number 72 is now ‘Stroll through the illuminated full size buildings made from blocks of ice at the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival‘. Take a look at some of those sculptures…amazing!
Feel a little bit bad for this one but we’ve taken off trying to find some of Matt’s relatives in the UK. I think our future holds quite a bit of time in the UK so this is likely one we’ll do anyway. Besides, the only way I’m going to ‘Go volcano boarding in Nicaragua‘ is if it’s on this list. Fun but scary!
While eating toblerone in Switzerland was nearly good enough to keep as an item itself, we tacked it on to our train journey and replaced it with ‘Swim to Hidden Beach on the Marieta Islands in Mexico‘. Any excuse for margaritas in Mexico!
And finally, we removed the Georgia Aquarium from our list. I love going to aquariums but I’ve been doing a lot of research lately about responsible travel (something I’ve always tried to do but not necessarily well). While I don’t have a problem with little fishes teaching kids about nature, I am not comfortable with large animals such as Whale Sharks being kept in captivity. So, fittingly, we’ve changed it to ‘Hang out with penguins in Antarctica‘. I’d much rather see animals in their natural habitat.
Now, can someone buy me a plane ticket to all these awesome places?
Have you been to any of these places or the new ones at the bottom of our 100 Things List and have any tips? Do you agree with our choices or do you have better ideas that maybe we haven’t hear of?
Our last trip to Norway was in the winter and was to Tromso way up in the arctic circle with snow, sunsets at 2pm and the northern lights. We fell in love with the place and had been wanting to go back since and one of the items on our 100 things list gave us the perfect reason to go in spring:
Arriving on Friday night, we had our usual issue with getting off the bus at the right stop. The announcements were all in Norwegian and it was dark so we couldn’t read any signs but we managed it eventually. I had planned ahead and had the simple directions on how to get to our hotel printed out but it didn’t save us from spending half an hour getting lost. Turned out we had taken all the right turns but had walked right past the big red carpet outside our clearly signposted Hotel.
At least we got a bit of a tour of the town.
Our room turned out great, it even had a fire going which we couldn’t figure out how to turn off. We did figure out that it was fake after touching the cool glass in front of it.
There was one main reason we were in Stavanger so we got up early the next day to set out for our big day of hiking. The day started with a ferry ride to Tau from where we caught the bus to the start of the track.
We got a great day for it with the sun shining without it being too hot. Walking the actual track was great. The track is a mix of boulders, wooden tracks, steep bits, gradual bits and the steep uphill bits never tend to go on for too long. There was also some beautiful spots on the walk to relax by lakes and lookouts.
The real prize of the walk was when we got to the Preacher’s rock at the top, over 600 metres above Lysefjord Fiord below.
I read afterwards that the crack through the rock plateau will one day break off. Geologists are just happy that for now, it breaking off is still a long way away. I wouldn’t like to be up there when that does happen though!
After our tiring hike, we spent the rest of our time in Stavanger taking it easy. We walked around the quiet old town area, ate some good food and finally managed to make some progress on the wedding planning (apparently the best spot for it is relaxing in a cafe with Wifi and nothing else to distract us for a few hours).
So after our second trip to Norway we fell even more in love with the country. It is just as impressive in warm weather as it is in cold and the people, food and landscape are sure to draw us back there again sometime soon!
Just 2 weeks after our weekend in Switzerland, we boarded a plane to Ireland to celebrate our friends’ wedding. We arrived in Cork, got into our rental car, and drove through the Irish country side to a cute little coastal village called Skibbereen.
The wedding was held at Liss Ard Resort where we also stayed. It was a gorgeous property with tennis courts, lots of little trails to walk, and the Sky Garden.
Matt was on Best Man duty along with Jono so while they were off making sure the groom got to the ceremony on time (he did, good job boys), Cath and I got to spend the morning napping and watching trashy TV while lazily getting ready.
The ceremony was beautiful and I loved how they were able to have a couple minutes after Gerrie walked in to talk to each other while the band finished the song. You could just see their nerves calm and they were just so happy. I have very strong opinions of taking photos during wedding ceremonies (that’s the photographer’s job) so I didn’t take any but you can see some here: Gerrie and Craig’s Wedding by Liam Kidney Photography.
After the ceremony, the boys and bridal party went to have photos taken so Cath and I were left to drink prosecco and eat yummy appetizers…and I think we did a very good job at that. I was very aware that this was the last wedding I’d be at before my own so I took full advantage of not having any responsibilities!
Soon it was time for dinner and it was clear that Gerrie had put a lot of thought into the Kiwi/Irish menu. All the food was delicious and I even tried black pudding for the first time! It wasn’t bad, but I don’t think it would be something I’d willingly choose to order. It was at this point that things started to get a bit silly thanks to the prosecco, wine, and an unexpected hot and sunny day.
Dinner turned into speeches which turned into dancing until the wee hours of the morning.
When I looked over my photos the next day, I found that I had only taken a couple which didn’t involve Matt dancing with Gerrie’s little niece. Excuse me while my heart (and ovaries!) explodes.
All in all it was a very fun and amazing wedding which we all paid for the following day. Good on Jono for being able to drive us to Kanturk while Cath and I hung our heads out the car windows…it was not a fun couple hours but we made it without any incidents. Little did I know, the night after a wedding is actually a bigger night for drinking in Ireland but I was definitely not up for the challenge. Instead, I sipped my water and ate jaffas, whittakers and other kiwi treats while listening to the Irish band.
On our way back to London, we realised we were very close to Blarney Castle so we had to make a stop to kiss the stone!
We rushed to the airport and made our flight in the nick of time. It was a very long 3 days that caught up with me on the flight and in the hazy blur that was my brain, I left my passport on the airplane. I noticed pretty quickly, raced back to the gate and told the security guard who then told me the gate was already closed and the flight was gone. Again, in the haze, I had told him the wrong gate number and after a few nerve racking minutes, in which I told myself I was not leaving the gate until I had my passport, the security guard came sauntering back with my passport in his hands.
And with that, the weekend came to an end but that didn’t mean we were able to relax because the following weekend was our trip to Norway…
We left Interlaken for more trains through more Alps. Our next stop was Lucerne which we were excited about mainly because it had been the last pit stop on the latest season of the Amazing Race. Our research on Lucerne was limited to that episode of Amazing Race so the first spot we headed to was where the teams headed for their first clue. The oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe and the world’s oldest surviving truss bridge.
The original bridge was built in 1333 but its been through a few fire and rebuilding incidents since then. It still feels ancient with some of the paintings on the interior dating back to the 17th century. The best part of the bridge though? It led over to a place on our little tourist map called Chocolate Land and our hotel had given us a little card that said we could exchange it there for free chocolate. I like all free things really but free chocolate is up there.
By this stage of our Swiss adventure we were completely addicted to chocolate so we also had to load up on some extras. All part of our master wedding diet plan where we shock our body with so much fatty food it gets so confused the weight just falls off.
We spent the rest of our time in Lucerne wandering around the old town area, along the river and the old castle walls.
The week before we left for this trip Dayna had found out that we would be only a short-ish trip away from Liechtenstein. From Lucerne all we had to do was catch a train to Sargans then jump on a bus across the border to Vaduz, Liechtenstein. The border crossing was one of the less eventful we’ve had (we didn’t realise we had crossed the border until we started seeing Liechtenstein included in company names on buildings).
Once there we only had one main sight we wanted to see: Vaduz Castle. The castle is still used as the official residence of the prince of Liechtenstein and unfortunately he didn’t invite us in for a cup of tea so we had to settle for the view from outside.
Some people say Liechtenstein isn’t worth visiting at all and given its size, we didn’t feel we needed much more than a few hours in Liechtenstein but it was still good to see another piece of Europe. And with the goal of getting to every country in Europe eventually, we need to take advantage of any easy border hopping trips we can!
After saying goodbye to Switzerland (for now, we’ll have to go back one day for the
views chocolate) we had our next trip to look forward to: an Irish wedding in Cork.
The problem with after work flights is that you arrive in a new country, which usually speaks a foreign language, in the dark, with absolutely no idea where you are. Even when armed with a map or directions, it’s hard to know if you’re in the right place as your bus flys down roads or the train stops at multiple stations in the city. Add in that the area surrounding a train station is usually a little bit dodge and you really start to feel the pressure of looking like you know exactly where you’re going so you don’t attract any unwanted attention.
This is how we found ourselves after getting off the (free) train from Geneva airport. Matt had a map and we couldn’t find a street sign to save our lives. So, we went with our gut and headed up a rather dark road in an attempt to find our hotel. Just before we decided to turn around and try the other direction, I spotted a small sign with the hotel name and we were soon tucked in to our comfy bed, watching the A-Team on the biggest TV I’ve ever seen in a hotel.
The next morning, we only had a few hours to explore Geneva before we caught the train to Montreux. We quickly ate our free breakfast (pain au chocolate for breakfast? Yes please.) and headed to the lake. It was a lot quieter than we expected since we knew it was the Geneva Marathon weekend (you can read our friend Leah’s post on that here) and quite grey.
Maybe it was because there weren’t many people around or that we didn’t have enough time to really explore but Geneva? Meh. It really didn’t leave an impression on me at all and I was really looking forward to the afternoon’s events.
We boarded the first of 8 trains we would take in 3 days to Montreux where we’d get on the Golden Pass line and tick off number 53 on our 100 things list – Train through the Swiss Alps (and eat a toblerone).
Perhaps one of our more expensive items to tick off since we decided to go 1st class for the first 3 legs of the journey. All up, it was worth it for the train from Montreux to Zweisimmen but maybe not quite as much for the last two. We also inadvertently booked ourselves onto the Classic train from Montreux to Zweisimmen which actually turned out to be a much better experience than the newer trains. It had beautiful wood panelling and plush green seats that took us back in time. We couldn’t pass up feeling extra fancy so we decided to splurge on Prosecco (expensive in Switzerland, along with everything else) and eat our toblerone as we sped through the Alps.
It is very hard to take photos through the window of a speeding train but I did my best at attempting to capture the gorgeous scenery. I didn’t realise just how much I missed mountains until I took in these snow-capped beauties.
We arrived in the creatively named town of Interlaken (you get one guess to figure that one out) and got to our hostel just before the rain started. It had been a while since we stayed in a hostel but Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof was really nice. Once again, we got free breakfast and even managed to score the movie room to ourselves that night and watched The Terminal (this is where I assure you that not EVERYTHING we do is travel related…but probably more than I care to admit).
After a quick look at tripadvisor for dinner options (we ended up having some delicious Thai food), we headed out to explore the tiny town. Apparently Interlaken is quite popular for paragliders and there was always at least one in the sky the whole time we were there.
It took about 10 minutes to walk the length of the town and even though it’s a really small place, they still managed to have a Hooters!
One of the cool things about Switzerland is the activity card you get when checking into accommodation in each town. It lets you do a variety of things for free or at a discount so we made use of the free mini golf before heading up the gondola. It was on this course that Matt and I decided we’re totally building our own one day – not sure why, but we love it!
After we finished the game, we walked over to the gondola that would take us up the mountain to Harder Klum. We (unknowingly) timed this perfectly as the next trip up was 3 mins after we arrived otherwise we’d be stuck waiting for 20 minutes. We realised just how lucky this was when we got to the top and saw that we only had one option to get back down and avoid missing our train to Lucerne! So, we quickly made our way to the lookout for the spectacular view.
I think it’s safe to say we fell in love with Interlaken. It’s a cute, sleepy little town surrounded by amazing mountains. It’s one of those places where we could easily spend a month or so just to get away from the busyness of daily life and relax. That statement really goes for the entire country of Switzerland (minus the big cities, of course) since we did train from one side to the other. But I’ll let Matt tell you about that in the next post.
Have you been to Switzerland? Where was your favourite place or memory of your time there?
We arrived in to Amsterdam in the early afternoon and as we got out of the train station we were engulfed in a crowd of girls dressed up for a night out. And when I say a crowd, I mean thousands. All cycling around and parking their bikes in or by a huge parking lot of bikes (pic below). It was an interesting way to arrive but I still have no idea what they were there for. There were no guys anywhere so I figure if it wasn’t a Justin Bieber or One Direction concert then it must have been a huge feminist cult meeting. We’ll never know.
We negotiated the skirts and bikes anyway and were enjoying the view from our hotel in no time.
Amsterdam has a pretty unique layout with a series of canals snaking their way around the city and we were staying right at the edge of it.
We had struggled to find accommodation and after a few failed attempts via AirBnb, we settled for Room Mate Aitana which turned out really nice if a bit expensive (we booked it back in our “we’ve got plenty of money for travel this year” phase…well before our current phase: “where did all our money go, we’re not going to be able to afford to eat at this rate”).
The bunch of girls on bikes that greeted us to Amsterdam were not the last bikes we saw in our time there. When people say everybody bikes here they aren’t exaggerating. Everywhere we went you had to watch out for speedy cyclists screaming past. You could spot the tourists easy enough as they were the ones cruising around slowly getting in everyone’s way. We chose to do everyone a favour and stay on foot.
On our only full day in Amsterdam we planned on fitting in as much of the sights as possible. We started the day with a stroll along the canals and found a great little breakfast spot where we got to play the classic travelling game of try and get rid of all the foreign currency’s coins before we leave the country.
We had made one big uncharacteristic error on Amsterdam though: we hadn’t researched and pre-booked tickets to the big sights. If you go to Amsterdam, research the main tourist spots and pre-book tickets to beat the massive queues (a must for Anne Frank house, Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum etc). We discovered how big of an error we had made when we got to Anne Frank house. The huge winding queue of people waiting outside would have taken at least 2 hours to get through and as I said to Dayna at the time, I’d rather go sit in the sun and have a beer thanks.
So we settled for snapping a photo outside Anne Frank house and moved on to the next tourist attraction of the day: the Van Gogh Museum.
Van Gogh has been my favourite artist for years and I’ve seen his work in New York and Paris so was really looking forward to this one. On the way there we heard from a friend of Dayna’s whom Dayna had met back in Australia about seven years ago. Turns out she works at the Van Gogh museum and the lines outside were as big as the ones we had just left behind at Anne Frank house. Lucky for us, she was on the inside and organised entry for us that let us skip the huge lines and join the crowds on the inside.
The museum didn’t disappoint either. Although my favourite Van Gogh pieces weren’t there (they’re off at other fancy musuems like the Louvre and MoMA), there were plenty of good ones for us to enjoy. Learning more about Van Gogh’s training and history was also great. Its’ amazing how much he crammed in to such a short time (he took up painting very late in life) and also how little recognition he got in his time. If he only knew how admired he would be maybe he wouldn’t have shot himself at 37 (although I don’t understand how he shot himself yet nobody ever found the gun!).
After leaving the Van Gogh museum we wandered along the canals further and detoured off for lunch and Gelato in the sun near the Heineken Experience, our next stop.
The Heineken Experience is the original Heineken brewery converted in to a museum with loads of fun little videos and games throughout. Once you make it through the museum you also get to taste the product so it is my kind of place. We opted to skip a video in return for an extra few glasses of beer at the end of the tour so we ended up spending a while relaxing and people watching in the bar later.
As a bonus, we also got a free canal ride that would take us over to the Heineken store in a nearby part of the city. Taking a boat ride on the canal was on our list of things to do so that worked out perfectly. Seeing a city from the water is always great so we enjoyed our little ride. We also got to enjoy more free Heineken games at the store (and pick up our “free gift” which was just a branded glass).
At this stage of the day, we felt brave enough to venture over in to the seedy heart of Amsterdam – the Red Light district. It seems like there are three crowds of people that visit Amsterdam: one lot there for the coffee shops (not for the caffeine!), one lot there to partake in the Red Light District and us, the travellers just there to see the city. The Red Light district brings all those crowds together though as we were about to find out.
We were surprised to find young children walking along gawking with their parents as a “worker” offered their services from behind a glass door. Not sure if I would do the same with children but each to their own. Anything to broaden their minds I guess.
After making it past all the sex museums, sex shows and sex tourists, we were oddly pretty hungry so started looking for somewhere to eat. The problem with that is that a good chunk of the surrounding area was made up of only two types of place: coffee shops (that are billowing out smoke and offer all types of Marijuana), and shops that cater to the impaired customers of the coffee shops (so a lot of takeaway waffle places). The coffee shops are everywhere and after a few minutes we got used to the pungent smell.
We had to walk for quite some way before we could breathe clear air and hope to find somewhere good to eat. Falling back on the Tripadvisor city app as we usually do, we found a great Thai place for dinner (after finding a great Indian place the night before). No waffles in site although we may or may not have gone and got a bunch of waffle biscuits after dinner.
And so ended our 4 day, 3 country Easter weekend. I thought we would finish the weekend shattered and needing a break but we both just felt like keeping going and moving on to another country. One day maybe.