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


At the top


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!


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 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!



Weddings and Kissing Stones in Ireland

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.

Liss Ard

Liss Ard

Liss Ard

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.

Cath and I

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!


With the happy couple

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.

Table settings

Matt and Cath

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.


The only picture I managed to take on the drive.

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!

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

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…

Lucerne and Liechtenstein

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.

Chapel 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.

Chocolate Land

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.


Funny Statue

Some of the interesting local artwork

View of Lucerne from The Nine Towers

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.

Luxembourg Castle

Luxembourg Castle

Luxembourg Castle

View of Luxembourg

View of Luxembourg

View of Luxembourg

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.

Chocolate and Trains in Switzerland

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.

Matt disturbing the swan

Matt trying to communicate with the local Fauna

Lac Leman


Ferry in the harbour

Flower Clock


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.

On the 1st class train

Matt with Toblerone and Prosecco


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.

Golden Pass

Golden Pass

Golden Pass

Golden Pass

Golden Pass

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!

Mini Golf

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.


Gondola down

View of Interlaken from Harder Klum

View of Interlaken from Harder Klum

View of Interlaken from Harder Klum

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?

Wandering in Amsterdam

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. From our hotel room.

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.


This is where we stayed and shows the unique lay out of Amsterdam

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.


Yeah…don’t think the waiter was impressed even if there was a tip in there

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.


As close as we got to seeing inside Anne Frank house

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.


Me pouring the perfect pint (the video game version)




Brewery horse!



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).

Beer time.


Playing with the toys at the Heineken store (I scored the goal in case you were curious)

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.

Kölsch and Cathedrals in Cologne

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.







Losing My Wallet in Luxembourg

We flew in to Luxembourg late on a Thursday night and were looking forward to a late dinner or at least finding a nice bar to have a glass of wine. Turns out everything closes pretty early in Luxembourg.

After negotiating the local bus (knowing when to get off in the dark was pretty hard), finding our hotel and wandering around for 20 minutes, we decided that everyone must have left or gone to bed that night. We had to settle for some cheesy bites and fanta at a Quick Burger as that was about all that was open.

We ended up having to just chill out in our hotel room but at least it was a nice one. Only issue was the slightly odd exhibitionist shower set up…

See through shower in our hotel room

We woke up bright and early(ish) to go to one of the top rated breakfast spots in Luxembourg (usual plan of find a place ranked highly on Tripadvisor and go there). Coming from London, we were expecting a few people as whenever a place has a half decent review it gets lines around the block so we were surprised to find it half empty. It seems sleepy and quiet are the best ways to describe Luxembourg.

After a peaceful, quiet breakfast at Golden Bean we started wandering around the Old Town.  The Old Town area of Luxembourg City sits up high with a sort of valley that runs around it so we started with checking out the view of the valley from a spot nearby.

Luxembourg City Cathedral




After checking out the view and the cathedral nearby, our first stop was the Tourist Information Centre to see what there was to do in this little city.  After chatting briefly to the guy on the help desk, we grabbed a map and were off on our own little walking tour (you can join a tour but they run at 2pm in the afternoon and we had a train to catch).


The Casemates of Luxembourg are the old, roughly 400 year old defenses that are mostly underground.  For 2 euro we did a quick little tour of them along with the 3 or 4 other tourists in the city at the same time as us.


The Casemates

The Casemates are the old stone buildings/wall on the left there

After that brief little bit of excitement (it was pretty tame really), we pretty much just meandered our way around the city.  Nothing seemed amiss as we strolled along in the sun enjoying the view.



But when we got back to our hotel room something was definitely amiss.  My wallet to be exact.  And I am the last person that should be losing a wallet.  Most people who have spent more than 30 minutes with me have probably seen me do my OCD pocket check dance (I basically have a compulsive need to tap every pocket every few minutes to make sure I still have my phone, wallet, keys etc on me).  So I was pretty surprised to find that despite my pocket check dance, I was now down a wallet (that contained a bunch of IDs, credit cards and cash).

After the original panic and swearing fit, I left Dayna to settle the bill at the hotel and took off on a much quicker tour of Luxembourg in reverse.  Well I would like to think it was quick but you can only run so fast in denim.

After a fruitless jog (at least I got some exercise in!), I got back to the hotel to start cancelling cards before we got directions to the local police station.  I completed the police report and detailed everything which then got translated in to a french police report for me to sign.  So with a heavy heart and light pockets, we set off for the train station as we were starting to cut it close on making our train from Luxembourg to Koln and needed some food first (losing your wallet makes you hungry).

We decided just to walk all the way to the station because the bus required coins and my recently departed wallet had all of our coins in it.  We were pretty much at the train station when I got a call from an international number.  It was a girl calling to explain that she had my wallet and I could come and collect it right away.  She spoke perfect English but when she pronounced the place where I should pick up my wallet I couldn’t understand any of it.

It sounded like:

“No problem, your wallet is safe with us.  Just come pick it up anytime at Flugellyboo Tickety-bucket”

I gave up and handed the phone to Dayna to see if she could translate Flugellyboo Tickety-bucket for me but she had no luck either.  We tried recruiting a shopkeeper who turned out didn’t speak any English before successfully convincing another customer in the store to translate for us (although it was quite funny when she asked what language we needed her to translate…just English thanks, we just don’t know the place name).  She spoke for a minute and eventually translated for us that the wallet was at a police station that was only 2 blocks away from us.

At this stage we were cutting it fine to get to the train on time so we got over there quickly.  Thankfully we managed to pick up my wallet (after an awkward conversation involving miming losing my wallet) and we made it back to the station quick enough to get on the right train.  We even had a chance to grab a bite to eat before jumping on board.

So after a night out in Luxembourg old town, a slow walk (followed by a swift jog) around the city and visiting 2 of the local police stations, we were on our way to Cologne/Koln.

Great to know the Luxembourg locals are kind enough to look after their tourists and hand in lost wallets.  They must not have trusted the police with the cash as they took that out before handing it back.  I’m sure an envelope with the cash will turn up in our letterbox any day though…