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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?
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…
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?
Once again I am completely convinced the best way to travel is by train. We had a lovely few hours on the train from Luxembourg to Cologne where we were able to read, nap, and actually use our phones to do a bit of research on things to do and of course, food to eat in Cologne (and receive a call from our credit card company asking us to pay off a bit of our balance – buying flights, a suit, and wedding ring adds up quickly). We also got to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the German countryside. We past cute little villages, lots of full camp sites along the Rhein, and even a few castles.
Walking out of the train station in Cologne, I was distracted trying to find our hotel when I was stopped by Matt pointing up and saying ‘Wow’. I turned around, had my first look at the Cologne Cathedral and it took my breath away. Knowing that the Golden Hour (sunset) was coming up and would give us some beautiful photos of the cathedral, we turned to quickly find our hotel and drop off our bags.
A little tired from our dramas of the morning in Luxembourg, we happily discovered our hotel room had a flash coffee maker. Matt quickly figured it out and we had a shot of coffee to keep us going for the rest of the evening.
We then rushed back to the cathedral to take in its beauty. Now, I’ve seen a fair share of cathedrals since moving to Europe and I wasn’t expecting much from this one (this is where lack of research is actually a good thing – no expectations) but I was totally blown away. Not to talk myself up or anything but I did a pretty good job at capturing the moment in these photos (Golden hour really is the best light – hardly had to do any post production) and they still don’t do it justice. It really is something you need to see for yourself (hopefully the scaffolding is gone when you do).
At this point, we were getting pretty hungry so we went in search of a restaurant serving good German food. You’d be surprised at how hard it can be to find local food in city centres as most restaurants cater for tourists looking for a quick, cheap bite. But after a little research on TripAdvisor we found a pub serving bratwurst and schnitzel. Sold.
We were also introduced to the local beer called Kölsch. It is always served in 200ml tall glasses and the waiters come around with full trays and keep giving you more until you’ve put a coaster over your empty glass to show them you don’t want any more.
Kölsch is also the first glass of straight beer I’ve finished without Matt’s help. It was light and tasty – I may become a beer drinker yet!
The food was amazing at this place as well – Matt had the bratwurst, I had schnitzel, and they both came with delicious fried potatoes, bacon, and onions. So much yum! If you find yourself in Cologne, make sure you plan a dinner at Gilden im Zims.
The next morning, we did a quick walking tour of the city centre and riverfront, drank more beer, and ate more schnitzel before catching the train to our 3rd country in as many days – The Netherlands.
There are only 16 weeks left until we leave for the US/Canada and, of course, our wedding. The next time we have a full week at home will be 7 weeks from now since we decided to take advantage of all the public holidays coming up (which seemed like a good idea at the time but right now just looking at our calendar is exhausting). So, this past weekend, we forced ourselves to cross off a few more items on our wedding To Do list so we aren’t overwhelmed come June/July.
We ended up not doing too badly either! Matt ordered his suit from Cad and The Dandy on Saville Row (definitely recommend them if you’re in the market for a suit, so knowledgeable, helpful, and not at all pushy), I got my wedding band, and Matt has a good idea of what type of ring he wants now and just needs to order it. Also, what are peoples thoughts on a ‘sit wherever you like’ policy for dinner at weddings? Cause you know what’s not fun? Seating plans! All kidding aside, it took a while but that’s nearly done too.
In between all the wedding fun, we decided to take part in one of the top things to do in London – have afternoon tea at Liberty. Liberty is a luxury (in every sense of the word) department store in Soho, just off Regent Street. It’s been around since 1875 and is built from the timber of two HMS ships. There’s also a plaque commemorating those who died in the building during the war. It really is a beautiful building and houses some equally beautiful (and expensive!) items. I even got to hold a pair of royal blue Manolo Blahniks I’ve been coveting ever since I saw them in the first Sex and the City film. But at £650, Matt didn’t let me hold on to them for too long!
At £35 for 2 people, the afternoon tea isn’t too crazy a price compared to the rest of the store. Out of the smorgasbord below, my favourite item was the scone – hands down the best one I’ve ever had (sorry, Mom!).
Here’s where I admit I’m not a huge fan of this kind of afternoon tea (besides the scones) because while tasty, it’s just a little bit on the bland side (maybe just a British thing?). However, it’s definitely something you need to do at least once while in good old Blighty.
It isn’t often that I enter photography competitions but when I saw that Blacks UK and Explore had teamed up to present this one with the chance to win £2000 to spend on travel with Explore, well. It was a no-brainer!
So, here are my photo submissions. Now, excuse me as I go drool over this tour and send ‘PICK ME’ ju ju vibes to the judges.