Joined March 2017
  • Day16

    Harlequins vs Newcastle Falcons

    March 25, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    Jonny and I got ourselves season tickets for Harlequins rugby for the second half of the season after seeing a one-off game at the Stoop. As season ticket holders we haven't seen Harlequins win yet, granted for the last 8 weeks we've had quite a few players out for national duties with 6 Nations and a crazy number of injuries.

    Today we took Toni and Philip, who I knew in the lab in Australia to watch their first game of rugby, and not did they get a great day for it!

    First of all the sun was shining, and our seats are beautifully in the sun, which was good because I was feeling bad for not telling Toni to bring lots of warm clothes to wear.

    Secondly, we had 13 players returning from 6 Nations and injury, including Danny Care, Mike Brown and Joe Marler from the England team, our new favourite Tim Visser from the Scotland team, Jamie Roberts from Wales, and Chris Robshaw and Aussie James Horwill back from injury.

    Thirdly, the scoreline was very favourable to a Harlequins supporter, the final scoreline being 53-17.

    After the game we hung around and had a drink as the sun move down behind the stadium. Toni and I had our photo taken with Tim Visser. We then had a final drink at the Cabbage Patch before catching the train back into town.

    We had a lovely dinner at Cinnamon Soho, which was Indian food with a twist. The favourite dish was called Paneer 65, paneer was cut into chips and seasoned. It was very different to how we'd had paneer before.
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  • Day2

    Twickenham Stadium

    March 11, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Out to Twickenham for the England vs Scotland 6 Nations Clash. In the lead up to the game there was a lot of hype around how good it was going to be, England going for a record-equalling 18th straight win, but failing to start strongly so far in the 6 Nations and Scotland having had a very good campaign having beaten Ireland and Wales.

    Unfortunately for Scotland, England got their act together and pulled together a very impressive 80 min performance. The final score was 61-21, with Man of the Match winner Jonathan Joseph scoring three tries and Quins Danny Care scoring two in his 20 min on the pitch. England securing a bonus point win, the Calcutta Cup and the 6 Nations. I fortunately have England in the work sweep so yay for me!

    After the game we had another beer in the fan zone, which is a glorified beer garden that's open before, during and after the game that has bars, street food, big screens with other games on and a live band. Everyone is getting into the spirit of it, dancing, singing and basically having a good time.

    Afterwards we walked back to Richmond where we went to Pizzeria Rustica and had since delicious pizza and wine before heading home to bed.
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  • Day1

    London Drinker

    March 10, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☁️ 11 °C

    Friday night post-work drinks at the London Drinker Beer Festival at the Camden centre. At the start of the 3 day festival there were 250 local beers, ciders and perrys available to taste. By the time we got there in the Friday evening quite a few of these had gone but we did still try quite a few, with the favourite being an oak aged imperial stout from the Hackney Brewery.

    The next port of call was the Pack and Carriage where our friend Morgan's band was playing as a part of a fundraiser for Street Doctors. The music was good, the company was fun and a good night was had by all!
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  • Day4

    Corner House

    March 6, 2017 in Latvia ⋅ ⛅ 0 °C

    Earlier in our trip we made a brief visit to the museum at the old KGB prison, the corner house. We had thought we would come back to go on a tour of the prison with a local guide.

    Our guide, Aivars, walked our group through the procedure when a new prisoner arrived. In the arrival office belongings were taken away and filed into the drawers, given false illusion that one day they may be returned. They were then questioned in a tiny room, pressured to confess to crimes that the majority had not committed with the promise of their families safety. We were shown the cells, furnished with for beds but in busy times often housed up to 40 people. There were secret tunnels to neighbouring buildings so that KGB members could access the site without going through the front door.Read more

  • Day4

    Majori, Dubulti and Dzintari

    March 6, 2017 in Latvia ⋅ ⛅ 0 °C

    After a bit of snow overnight we decided another beach day was in order, so we were back on the train to Majori.

    We got off the train at Majori and walked to Dubulti past a number of old delapidated hotels that looked like they had been abandoned for years. We had a picnic lunch of Lazybones cocktails (a shot of black balsam- the local Riga spirit with coke) and some salami sandwiches.

    After lunch we were back on the beach walking back the direction we came into a massive headwind! We could see the snow being viciously blown along the beach towards us. At Dzintari we got back on the train into Riga for our last afternoon of sightseeing.
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  • Day3


    March 5, 2017 in Latvia ⋅ ☁️ 1 °C

    Thirty-five minutes on the train from Riga and we were in Majori, one of the major towns in Jurmala, the Baltic equivalent of the French Riviera, home to jet-setting, high-flying, glamorous Russians. Strangely in the middle of winter there didn't appear to be many of them around!

    We started our visit with a walk down the main drag, Jomas iela. Along the route there were many shops and restaurants, and a number of set-ups that looked like in the middle of summer would make a pretty awesome beer garden. We chose one of the restaurants, Alus Krodzins, for our lunch. As we'd become accustomed to, we started the meal with some Latvian garlic bread, washed down with a couple of beers, I had a Brengulu Lager and Jonny had a Tervetes Alus. For lunch we then had chicken shashlik and a pork chop with cheese with potatoes to share. Both these meals were very nice.

    After a couple more beers we set off on a walk along the beach. The beach was really cool! The sand underneath your feet was frozen and there was a barrier of snow, which was where the high tide reached up the beach. Surprisingly, we weren't the only nutters walking along the beach in the middle of winter, everyone was very rugged up because it was quite blowy. We reached Dzintari and turned around, walking back past Majori and further along the beach.

    We came off the beach and walked back into town along Juras iela, which is home to a good stretch of colourful art deco wooden houses. These houses were in various states of disrepair, as you can see from the photo, with the beautiful green house with ornate detail in the third photo across the road from the bleak, abandoned hotel in the fourth photo. Although there were lots of beautifully maintained houses, there appeared to be a disproportionate number of abandoned and rundown places. The only reasoning we could come up with for this was that potentially after the downfall of the USSR these properties had been taken from the owners, but the government had not sold them on, leaving them to fall into disrepair. This problem could be further enhanced by the current travel sanctions placed on Russia and the effect that this may have on the tourism industry in Jurmala.

    Post-walk we were in need of a warming beverage, so returned to Alus Krodzins to continue where we left off. We knocked off a couple more and had a chat to another pub-goer, Janis, a local who was very surprised that an Aussie and a Brit would bother visiting Latvia. At this stage we had met three Latvians, Janis and his son Gustav Janis from the tour and Janis from the pub, which lead us to confirm that Janis is the most common name in Latvia.

    We made a dash for the train to get us back to Riga, only to see it moving away from the platform. Fortunately while we were in the pub it had been snowing, so missing the train gave us the opportunity to play in the snow that had fallen throughout the day! I built a mini snowman on top of the garbage bin and a number of snowballs were thrown. We were a little cold and wet getting back on the train into Riga.
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  • Day3

    Riga Central Market

    March 5, 2017 in Latvia ⋅ ☁️ 1 °C

    First stop for our Sunday morning was Riga Central Market. The main part of the market was four large halls that were originally designed for building zeppelin airships in during the Soviet era. Now they contain fruit and veg, meat, seafood and bread and cheese. The produce was so cheap, including caviar for €29/kg. It was very much a local destination, a few people tried speaking to us in Latvian and we just smiled politely. There was also an outdoor area where they sold very cheap shoes and clothes.Read more

  • Day2

    Turaida Castle

    March 4, 2017 in Latvia ⋅ ☁️ 1 °C

    Before we left London we signed up to an all day winter tour of Sigulda and the surrounding area with a company called Discover Latvia. When organising it we had been told it was unlikely to be snowy and the tour guide at the deer park would be on holidays while we were there. Closer to the date or host alsop told us due to unseasonably warm weather a lot of the parks were very muddy and slippery.

    We didn't quite know what to expect when we got picked up on Saturday morning by Janis in his family van and headed to our first stop, collecting his 12 year old son, Gustav, along the way. Driving out of Riga, the Soviet influence on the city was very apparent in the architecture, especially when compared to the art deco architecture in Riga.

    Our first official stop was Turaida Castle, which was built by the Livonian's in 1214. The weather was pretty dicey and raining. We got out of the car and off we went. We visited the small church, which was one of the oldest surviving wooden churches in Latvia. Around a memorial site next to the church Janis told us the story of the Rose of Turaida. Maija Rose was a little girl when she was found among the wounded after a battle in 1600 and taken to Turaida Castle, where she grew to be a beautiful woman with many suitors. The only one with a place in her heart was Viktors, a gardener at nearby Sigulda Castle, home of a rival group. These two used to secretly meet at Gutmana Cave. One day, a suitor from the Turaida side of the river decides to Lee Maija to the cave under false pretences, to kidnap her for his own. To ensure her escape, Maija promises the suitor the magic scarf around her neck. The scarf would protect her from a blade and to prove it he should swing his axe at her neck. You don't even need to imagine what happened next, but the suitor was captured and hung for his crime. Court documentation had shown this story to be true!

    On approach to the main Castle, Gustav announces that we all have to run to the top of the Tower, counting the steps as we went along. We got there, maybe forgetting to count the steps, and the views out over the valley were pretty nice, although limited by the weather. The small on site museum gave a history of the Livonia. It was interesting that although Turaida and Sigulda were very close together and only separated by the Gauja River they were never part of the same group's territories.

    Back to the car, and to a buffet restaurant in Sigulda. It was tricky to work out what the food was, but we definitely had our fill and it didn't burn a hole in your pocket.

    After lunch we went to a nearby spring to fill up water bottles, as well as get Janis' supply for home in lathe water drums. There were lots of locals, remembering we were in the middle of nowhere, filling up bottles for their own use!
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