Our 100 Things List is finally full!

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.

Photo Credit: Björn Kleemann

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?

Photo Credit: Wilderness Travel

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!

Photo Credit: Ice Festival Harbin

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!

Photo Credit: A Wider View

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?

 

Hiking Preikestolen

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:

78. Check out the view from Preikestolen cliff in Norway

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.

Fireplace in our hotel

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.

Ferry to Tau

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.

Hiking to preikestolen

Hiking to preikestolen

Hiking to preikestolen

Hiking to preikestolen

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.

Sweaty from the hike up

Hiking to preikestolen

preikestolen

At the top

preikestolen

Trying to appear like I’m not terrified of heights!

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!

preikestolen

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).

Stavanger

Stavanger

Stavanger

Stavanger Old Town

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!

 

Weihnachtsmärkte in Vienna

Our trip to Vienna snuck up on me a bit.  I forgot about it until the week we were going so it was a nice surprise to remember a few days before we left.  This was our first venture in to a German speaking country so I was pretty excited to try out my German after a decade of not using what I learnt at school at all.  Turns out it’s pretty easy, unlike in France when I could barely get through ordering a baguette, I could comfortably order in German and understand what people replied back with.  Needless to say Dayna had to put up with me speaking German to her for the whole weekend as well even though she didn’t understand what I was saying.

We left work at midday to catch our flight to Vienna but by the time we made it to our hotel it was getting late.  After negotiating our Hotel’s ancient 100 year old lift, we ventured out to find a nice local restaurant for a late dinner and found some classic Viennese cuisine on offer.  If you count Mexican as classic Viennese cuisine that is.   We did have to order it in German based on a German menu though.  A couple of Quesadillas and Mexican beers later we were ready to crash to get ready for the Christmas markets the next day.

Made in 1913

It seems like someone has walked through Vienna and wherever there is space for it they’ve built another Christmas market.  Knowing that, our plan was to spend our time just walking around, criss crossing Vienna until we had been to all the markets but we started the day with a little journey out to Schönbrunn Palace where one of the further out Christmas markets was located.  It was also the final stop on an episode of a recent season of Amazing Race that we had watched so we were pretty excited to see another pit stop in person.

We were greeted with some perfect Christmas weather – our first snow this winter.  It might have been cold but it made drinking Glühwein (mulled wine) and eating Pretzel’s even better.

Bretzels

Adventmarkt in front of St Charles's Church

First gluwien

Schonbrunn Palace

Schonbrunn Palace Christmas markets

Dayna cringed at first when she spotted a big group of obviously proud Canadians plastered with Maples leafs and flags.  Instead of being a group of tourists though, it actually turned out to be a choir group all the way from Canada.

Canadian choir at Schonbrunn Palace

Neptunbrunnen

We kept on like we started for the rest of the weekend with regular mulled wines, bratwursts and pretzels at a string of different markets.  We also managed to get some culture in with the Albertina museum for a Matisse exhibit and getting stuck in the middle of a Ukrainian protest by St Stephen’s Cathedral.

Belvedere Palace Gardens

Stephansplatz demonstration

Mulled wine at Am Hof

The Albertina

St Stephen's Cathedral

Belvedere Palace

Cup Cakes Wien

Our favourite market was Rathausplatz market, right by our hotel.  We had heard a bit about the Rathaus markets from friends (Leah and Jase) that got engaged there and we ended up going a couple of times over the weekend.  We did manage to get in a bit of a fight with a bratwurst vendor there though.  I thought I had clearly stated that I wanted two of the large thick bratwursts but the Austrian vendor misheard and got two thin hotdogs ready despite my protests.  He then wouldn’t take no for an answer so we had to retreat in to the crowd to escape his wrath.  We ended up finding even better bratwursts (filled with cheese) around the corner from a nice cheerful Austrian so it turned out well for us.

Heart tree at Rathauspark

Guitar tree at Rathauspark

Rathausplatz

Rathausplatz

Rathausplatz

Rathausplatz

Rathausplatz

Rathausplatz

Rathausplatz

Rathausplatz

Rathausplatz

Vienna was pretty quiet and we didn’t spot a lot to do but the Christmas markets really made the city come to life.  It was such a happy family atmosphere at all of the markets that you couldn’t help being caught up in the cheery Christmas mood everyone was in.  We’re now hooked on Christmas markets so will be looking for another good spot to go next year. Vienna was unfortunately our last trip of 2013 and (for now) until April which is possibly the longest we will have gone without a trip since leaving New Zealand. We’re planning on doing things around London to keep us from getting cabin fever but there’s always the possibility we may crack and get a last minute deal somewhere. Unlikely though as we have a big trip (and our wedding) in August to look forward to! Our year in review post will be up soon (is it really that time again?) but until then, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sailing Away in Croatia

Last year, our friends Jason & Leah booked a yacht through MedSailors at a travel expo (which meant a free upgrade to a premium boat) and we managed to fill it with our closest friends. This was our last big trip of 2013 and we couldn’t think of a better way to spend it than island hopping in Croatia for a week. We did nothing but swim, sun bathe, read, take photos, visit various islands, drink, and eat for a week and it was glorious! We were all able to relax and recharge from our busy lives and really enjoyed each others company. 

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Our skipper was from Austria and he looked after us for the week. As he said, it was his job to make sure we enjoyed our holiday so he would make us breakfast and lunch each day and we had to force him to let us help with the cleaning up. He tried to teach us how to sail as well but after the first day, we lost interest and preferred to sun bathe instead.

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Overall, MedSailors were awesome but I also think we lucked out with a great skipper (some of the other boats had complaints about theirs) and filling our boat with friends who all had the same approach to the trip made all the difference. If you do find yourself wanting to take a similar trip, definitely look them up! Now, since a picture is worth 1000 words, I’ll share a few of the 1200 I took that week. As someone who is partial to landscape photos, I was in heaven in Croatia. Sunset photo, anyone? I took about 500.

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This bug was 50 years old. It was a beast.

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When our week was done, we said goodbye to Borat (our nickname for our skipper…can’t remember his real name) and drove to Dubrovnik to spend a few days there before going back to London. There’s a section of the highway along the coast that belongs to Bosnia so we made sure the driver stopped there so we could check another country off our list (although we’ll go back properly one day)!

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*As always, there are more photos on Flickr

Plitvice Lakes

We’ve been neglecting the blog a bit lately and I had actually forgotten we hadn’t finished our summer holiday blogs including our Croatia travels so here we are.  It’s a bit bittersweet thinking back on all our awesome travels this summer when we are now stuck inside with it pouring rain outside.  I’ll do my best to avoid getting depressed as I write this while looking forward to a long hard winter with only one more trip away…

Our Croatia itinerary started with flying in to Zagreb for a night before joining Cath and Jono for a road trip to Split with a stopover at Plitvice lakes on the way.  We would then be getting on a boat for a week of sailing around Croatian islands.  We were pretty excited for this one.

We arrived in Zagreb on a Wednesday night and turned up at our accommodation ready to dump our stuff and head out for a drink and meal.  We had booked a private room at a hostel which was pretty cheap so weren’t expecting much.  Fortunately for us the hostel had made a mistake and booked us for the wrong night so they had to work something else out for us.

We ended up being transferred to a huge modern apartment right on the main square (Flower square).  Apparently the richest person in Croatia has an apartment in the same building.  The best part was that it was the same price as our cheap hostel room – I love free upgrades.  Seriously, if we ever get upgraded to business class flights I’ll probably hug everyone standing near me.

Kitchen

Stairs to the second bed

Bedroom/lounge

View from our room

View from our room over Flower square

After dropping our stuff and looking around our huge apartment (there may have been a few Step Brothers quotes thrown around “we have so much room for activities!”) we ventured out for the night for a drink and some food.  Zagreb was great for that as there is street after street lined with comfy seats and tables made for eating outside on a summer evening (as you can see in the photo above).

We woke up the next morning and headed over to what would have been our accommodation for the night to meet Cath and Jono.  Eventually we found each other and hopped in our ride for the next few days to get on the road to Plitvice.   A GPS was key (Jono and Cath had brought one with them) – getting out of Zagreb was hard enough even knowing what lane you were supposed to be in.

Our ride in Croatia

Our ride

Plitvice wasn’t too far away so we arrived early enough in the afternoon to head out and start exploring.  Plitvice lakes have been set up really well with a couple of different options to get around and see everything.  We chose to split it up and do one half the first day and leave the second half for the next day.

Plitvice Lakes

Our accommodation in Plitvice

The whole area is filled with beautiful lakes and waterfalls so we were busy taking it in whilst trying to avoid stepping off the track which is mostly built over the water.  The transport around the area is great with a few different options of taking tram-like buses or boat rides combined with walking.  It would have been perfect if you didn’t have to share it with hundreds of other tourists.

Map of the Lake

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

We refueled that evening with pizza and beer before getting up bright and early to explore the second half of Plitvice lakes.  There was a great little hotdog stand at the entry so we got our third hotdog in 2 days for breakfast and then set off.

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

The whole Pltivice area was beautiful and a really nice break from the City.  The air’s fresh, the lakes and waterfalls are beautiful, the whole place seems like it has been designed by a great team as even the buildings and hotels are all really similarly designed and just sort of fit.  Definitely glad we put this on our 100 Things List.

After we finished the trek we hopped back in the car to continue on to Split.

The GPS worked great for the whole scenic drive but once we got to Split it decided to start having fun with us.

We wanted to go to a supermarket to load up for the boat the next day whilst we still had a car.  We were seeing loads of signs for supermarkets so thought it was going to be easy but to be safe we entered one of the local supermarkets in to the GPS so we could follow the directions and be 100% sure.  It seemed to start off quite well and the GPS confidently shouted out directions.

It was only when we noticed we were getting quite close to the port that we thought something might be up.  Nevertheless, we continued following the directions for a few more turns before the GPS calmly instructed us to continue for 200 metres before boarding the ferry.  So we didn’t get to that supermarket but it did give us a good laugh.

We gave up on the GPS in the end and did successfully find a supermarket (although it took forever, it didn’t involve any trips on ferries).  We got to the castle like area that is the Old Town in Split (seriously cool, you walk through the gate in the castle walls and down in to winding cobbled lanes – makes you feel like you’ve travelled back a few hundred years) and had another struggle with finding the meeting point to get keys to our apartment.  Eventually we got there and set off to explore Split a bit as we were hopping on our boat out of there the next day.  But I’ll leave that for Dayna to talk about next time!

Party in Ibiza

I think it’s safe to say we were all looking forward to a relaxing end to our trip in Ibiza. We had booked a hotel that had a great view, really nice pool and were looking forward to making good use of it.

Hotel Pool

When we booked this hotel months and months ago, we didn’t read all the reviews saying it was gay-friendly. No worries, we thought, we like gay people….it will be great. Well, when we got handed this map on checking in we twigged that it may actually be a bit awkward for us at the pool.

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That pool was that exact scene every day and when you’re 2 couples, you feel a little bit out of place. So, we settled for plan B – a quick walk around the area then chilling out in our room. Luckily, the weather wasn’t so great and we needed to save our energy for that night so we didn’t feel that bad. Later on, Sarah joined us for some drinking games and music before we headed to Pacha to see David Guetta! Unfortunately, by the time we walked to the club (which took about an hour) the buzz had worn off quite a bit and it was way too expensive to top up (at least 16 Euro) so we just had to power through.

Pre Pacha

Cath and I

Pacha

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Pacha

We were in for a long night

Pacha

Pacha

Pacha

David Guetta - Pacha

David Guetta - Pacha

At about 4am, my body decided I had put it through enough in the last week and I had to get out of the crowd. After a couple very expensive waters (8 Euros for a small bottle) and some fresh air, we all at the same point as this guy and decided to call it a night.

Pacha

Pacha

Finally, we had a whole day to do absolutely nothing and recover from the craziness of the past week. We slept until 1pm and did absolutely nothing else besides a trip to Burger King – it was well deserved.

The sun finally came out for our last day on the island and we soaked it up (and got a little bit burnt) while reading on beach chairs. It was the perfect end to an intense but awesome trip around Spain.

Coast

Sunset from our hotel

One big tomato fight – La Tomatina 2013

We struggled out of bed after a night of drinking wine and throwing water at each other in Requena with the prospect of being pelted by tomatoes making getting up all the more challenging.

With some hangovers and blurry eyes in tow we boarded a bus to Bunol and had mostly recovered by the time we arrived.

There are quite a few different stories about how La Tomatina started but most of them involve a food fight in the 1940s where a vegetable stand was used as ammo.  The young locals tried to start it again the next year but brought their own tomatoes this time.  Police got involved to try and stop it every now and then but eventually the festival became a proper annual event and has been going strong ever since.

La Tomatina

La Tomatina

Soon after we arrived at our spot for the day, we unfortunately overheard one of the guys in the group right in front of us saying how he had to pee.  Sure enough, 10 seconds later and he’s peeing in a cup in the middle of the crowd.  I was half expecting him to be completely disgusting and throw the full cup over the crowd but he only went with quite disgusting by dropping down and pouring it on the ground at his feet.  This was gross but got worse when two minutes later a guy was on his hands and knees in the puddle of pee as he helped someone on to his shoulders.

One guy had a bit of an odd costume for the day.   I think you can probably spot him without a description from the photo below (it’s just like “where’s wally?”…or should I say “where’s willy?”).

La Tomatina

His costume came complete with a set of balls.  I came to know one of the balls quite intimately as he squished pass us.  Little did I know at the time that I would get even more well acquainted with one of the balls later on as it hit me in the head in the midst of the tomato fight (guess someone confused it with a giant tomato and ripped it off).

In its history, it had never rained on the day of the Tomatina festival but we were there for the lucky first time as a thunderstorm rolled in to soak us.  It got cold quick.

La Tomatina

The tomato fight begins when one of the locals manages to make it up a greased up pole and lifts off a ham that is sitting on top (aah the Spanish and their festivals – nobody could ever accuse them of lacking imagination).  Assuming a local doesn’t make it to the ham by 11am (the most likely outcome), the trucks roll in to start the carnage (bringing with them around 40 tonnes of tomatoes).  A large shot rings out to announce the trucks arrival.  Only problem with that was that I didn’t have a watch and the claps of thunder that rang out kept making me think we were kicking off.

Soon enough it was actually go time and we went from shivering from the cold rain to covered in a thick blanket of tomatoes (along with the exertion it took to help cover everyone else around us, it warmed us up pretty quickly).

We were in a packed street and every time one of the trucks came along we would have to squish up against the sides of the street so it was a little claustrophobic.  We thought we were messy after the first truck rolled past but it was ridiculous by the time the last one rolled by.

La Tomatina

Everyone says that the tomatoes don’t hurt because you have to crush them before throwing them.  Well that’s a nice idea but after the third or fourth hard tomato in the head, I decided that all the people mentioning the crushing of tomatoes probably haven’t been there.  A few of us opted for goggles which were great for about 20 seconds until they became completely covered in tomatoes and we were left with two options: blindly grope about for tomatoes and keep your goggles on or take the goggles off and be stuck with burning eyes from all the tomato juice.  It was a tough choice.

Near the time the last truck was crawling through we decided we wanted to try get to a spot with a bit more breathing space so started squeezing our way through the crowd.  It got pretty intense for a bit and before you know it I was lost completely with nobody else near me, Dayna and Sarah were off down a side street and Cath and Jono were somewhere else in the crowd.  I learnt that  tomatoes are a great disguise – everyone looked the same to me so I had no chance of finding everyone despite spending the next hour and a half trying.

La Tomatina

La Tomatina

La Tomatina

La Tomatina

We got a bit of shaky video as well which includes another round of “where’s willy?” (and his balls – bonus points if you spot one of them being flung up in the air) for those who enjoyed the earlier version – it gives you an idea of what it was like.

Once the tomato fight had ended it was still a messy, long walk back to the bus in the crowds.  Locals have hoses set up to help clean the tomato off but it was tough going.  20,000 people sharing the limited number of hoses made it hard to get a share and the tomato was EVERYWHERE.  We all regrouped at the bus and had the difficult job of wiping off enough tomato and tidying up enough to be let back on the bus.

We were pretty wrecked by the end of the day so the bus ride home was a quiet one.   The shower at the hotel was amazing even though we were still finding tomato on us hours later.

Tired out

A worn out Jono and Cath after the tomato fight.

And to think, we still had David Guetta in Ibiza the next night to pull ourselves together for…