When I retired, we decided to travel overseas each second year, so now we have been to the UK & Europe in 2010, 2013 and 2015 - this will be our 4th big holiday. We have made many friends and been able to visit relatives that live so far away.
  • Day1

    Lenah Valley

    July 24, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 10 °C

    Please do not read this page .... you can stop now ... only did this so we could start our trip from Home as I have moved the planning footprints to another page ??

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  • Day3

    Landed in Sweden

    July 26, 2017 in Sweden ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    I really am impressed by people who travel with their children. Friends Sandie and Mel have done this recently. It's hard enough looking after yourself, sleeping, eating and drinking for 21+ hours. But we made it - our holiday has started and a healthy breakfast will get me going.

    This is how we travelled. First, the Virgin flight out of Hobart was 30 mins late - why are we not surprised? Melbourne departure lounge was under renovations [again] making it hard for Mary to shop ... Singapore Airlines were terrific - stewards were very friendly and helpful. We had been flying for sometime when Mary looked over to me as I was following the flight path on the screen - we have just passed Adelaide ... only 8 more hours to get to Singapore. It always gets to me how long it takes to leave Australia [about 6 hours to cross over Broome]. Singapore airport was great for shopping, lovely and clean. Then we took off for Moscow. Those crazy Russians use the full alphabet for place names, but they mainly concentrate on the letters at the end of the alphabet. I can try to work out names with 2 or 3 syllables ... but names like ZHEZKAZGAN make it hard.

    Moscow airport was disappointing for two reasons - dirty and messy for a start, but poorly organised. We got off our flight, were given Transfer Cards, and about 200 of us had to go down, around, back again without leaving the concourse, but still had to line up at one counter to check in, 5 other counters were not manned, and go through three passport checks and scanners again. Phew!

    Arrived in Stockholm carrying Vegemite, Tim Tams and Wagon-wheels and not a customs officer in sight in the "items to declare" line - so we went straight through.

    The Pop house Hotel is great, who would have thought we would stay here - a couple of Super Troupers, what's that music I hear ...?

    I went to bed early, Mary went out partying with Grace - breakfast finished, now I'm off to explore Stockholm and then go to a midsummer party tonight!

    Had my first beer, a Visby Lager - made in Gotland, not bad but hope for better.

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  • Day4

    Eat, Drink and enjoy the Culture

    July 27, 2017 in Sweden ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    You have to love hotel breakfasts. Travelling for work can be lonely and boring - the saving grace is often only the a magnificent breakfast buffet. Usually, an overworked head waiter meets you at the "please wait to be seated" post, takes you to the worst seat in the room, pours you a coffee, explains nothing then heads off never to be seen again apart from darting around the room. Here its free and easy. Heaps of food options and everyone is so helpful.

    After a look around the local area we took a tram then a bus to the Kaknäs Tower. This is breaking the golden rule of restaurants, the better the view and higher the dining room, means the food is overpriced and service is lacking. This was not the case here, great views of Stockholm [so flat like many big cities - compared with Hobart], good value food and excellent service. Getting there wasn't so easy. On the bus we were so busy talking, we missed our stop. Realising this Grace asked the driver and he agreed we had missed it and so we decided to get off and catch a bus back to where we needed to go. Waiting, waiting and who should turn up? The same bus and bus driver on the return trip. Laughs all around.

    In the evening we had the pleasure of a Mid Summer party held for Grace and friends as she had missed the party on the correct date because she was in Hobart. We went to Osterskar which was about a 1 1/2 hour drive out of Stockholm - a beautiful location and a lovely house on the water's edge. We were served all the traditional foods and of course Schnapps ... including a "moon shine"version. Lots of singing, including a fantastic performance by Manuelle and Marjan of the song they wrote that won Manuelle the Eurovision Song Contest for Slovenia!!

    Coming home, we were trying to catch the 12:30am tram - rushing a bit when Mary had a fall. She fell face first into the pavement. One of the worries about travelling - being injured. Luckily Mary just has bad bruising on her elbow nose and knees - a bit of TLC will fix.

    Might need to slow down a bit tomorrow - going to Manuelle's concert tomorrow night - that should be a highlight.

    BTW, had a Pop House beer - I'm not big fan of craft beers - but the Mariestads I had for lunch was very good - much like off tap draft beers back home.

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  • Day5

    Our brush with fame ...

    July 28, 2017 in Sweden ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    We are settling into the Stockholm system of buses, trams, trains and boats and so today headed off by ourselves to do some shopping and sightseeing.

    Thought we might go the the Vasa museum - where they have restored a huge viking ship. We made the novice mistake of not booking online first - the queue was miles long and so we walked past - we'll go back another time.

    First stop was the telco shop to get Mary a prepaid mobile card. Always easy, go into the shop, hand your phone over to the youngest person and let them do it all. I said before how expensive it is in Australia for mobile calls and data plans - so cheap over here $A16 for a prepaid card with 200 calls [no minute limit] 200 SMS and 0.5Gb of data - lasts 1 month.

    Had to buy some Princess Cake [green icing] and a real treat. Caught the tram back, Mary and I became separated by the crowd, but we both knew where to get off - so all's good.

    The big event for today was going to see Manuella and Marjan - winners of the Slovenian Eurovision Song Contest and good friends of our niece Grace. Manuella Brechko is a superstar in Slovenia and has moved to Sweden to launch her international career, as Molly Meldurn would say "do yourself a favour and have a listen"

    It was a fantastic night with world class music and performance, plenty of drinking and laughing and home by 1pm for us oldies. This was something we were not expecting and we are feeling blessed.

    Stuck to the same beers today - might try something new tomorrow and it's off to the ABBA Museum.

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  • Day6

    Those bloody Danes ...

    July 29, 2017 in Sweden ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    I think we have set the record for being last at breakfast. While staff are clearing the buffet each day, Mary & I have been trying to grab the last remaining remnants of fine Swedish breakfast fare. One thing is - we are consistent, and we do need to pace ourselves, not being as young as we used to be...

    The was a light shower today when we went to see the Vasa Museum. Luckily Mary took her new water proof jacket - it worked perfectly. Mary was able to stand in the rain for 40 minutes as the queue moved towards the door, While I stood under cover in the foyer [noice]. People in Sweden do not talk to strangers in a queue, so Mary had to line up in silence - I couldn't stand that so of thing.

    What a story the Vasa is ... built in 1626 over three years by 400 men using over 1,000 oak trees. A beautiful ship that only ever sailed 1,300 metres before it keeled over and sunk in the harbour. Apparently, the danish captain or the danish designers or the danish builders were to blame, however, the Swedish King agreed to everything, so no-one was held responsible.

    300 years later she was raised [in 1961] almost completely intact - there are low salt levels in the Baltic Sea - so even the sails, after 300 years under water were intact. A good museum - I really enjoyed it.

    After lunch, and a very enjoyable Mohawk IPA, it was time to go to the ABBA Museum. Not expected to be my thing, but something Grace and Mary would enjoy. As it turned out I really had a great time. It was fascinating to hear the stories behind ABBA and they way they made their music. I even tried to sing their songs - way out of tune as you could imagine, but I tried.

    It was always going to be an early night this Friday [we had been up until 2am most nights before]. There is an Irish Pub around the corner with good wholesome food - a bit American in fact, and I rounded off the evening with a couple of Bishops Fingers - life is good.

    Tomorrow after listening to the football [Geelong 123 defeated Carlton 58], we are off on a cruise around the Archipelago and a visit to the old city. Then we head off to London early on Sunday.

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  • Day7

    Get out of Stockholm, they said ...

    July 30, 2017 in Sweden ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Stockholm is one of the best large cities I have visited. Safe, clean, easy to walk around, lots to see, great shops, plenty of unique history, good food and friendly helpful people, most of whom speak good English. The modern parts are stylish, very modern and stunning to look at and are built away from the old part of town [a lesson for Hobart there?].

    We started out today with a walk around the old parts of town, then stopped for a toasted warm shrimp stew and a glass of wine. I was able to hot spot from Mary's phone where she had borrowed and topped up a PAYG SIM card from Grace to enable me to listen to the Geelong Cats get on top of the Carlton Blues - all's good [but I still remember 1995].

    We then took a large ferry ride through a very small part of the Archipelago. Just around Stockholm there are more than 3,000 inhabited islands - heaps more as you go out to the coast. The boat ride was so quiet and smooth, we had a great view of all the typical Swedish country houses, large and small, I almost fell asleep - Nanna nap! But we were rapt to see more of the Swedish country side - more to come in a few weeks when we return.

    A few glasses of wine and a long chat with Grace at Vaxön. Brilliant way to spend a Saturday afternoon. We had to buy the mandatory "bus food" Swedish buns [Cinnamon, Cardamom and Vanilla] and took the bus home.

    Things were very quiet at the hotel, so for Saturday night we went out for Pizza !!

    Up early tomorrow to catch a plane to London, I think we are starting to get better at this packing and travelling gig - we will see how we go tomorrow.

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  • Day8

    London calling

    July 31, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    It's time to leave Stockholm. Today is the first test of our ability to get up early, pack and be on our way. We needed to be down to reception by 7:30am - not that early really. Well Mary and I worked like old professionals - handle things just once [don't put things down, put them away] and we cruised through the getting ready process. After paying for the room, we had only spent about $A160 for five days on snacks and drinks - well done I say.

    We used a taxi to get to the train station [$A24] and caught the express train to the airport. No problems with our bookings - thanks Samone - and in no time we were on board. Don't know about other airlines but SAS call you, board you, close the doors and take off, all in a few minutes.

    The flight to London was 2.5 hours and mainly cloudy.

    When we arrived in London we went down to the train station and had the "train for London" staff help us each get an Oyster card for the week. They explained everything and were very friendly and helpful. Nothing can stop us now.

    The hotel is right next door to the train station, great planning by me eh! Problem is, the devil is in the detail - to leave the train station there is a long flight of stairs, no lift and no escalator. So with hand luggage and 2 x 23kg suitcases - it was a struggle.

    We had an upgrade when I asked if we could have the best room available [based on the amount we had already prepaid]. We were moved to a king sized room - and no it's not king sized - very small indeed. By the way, the lift wasn't working, but staff carried our cases up the stairs.

    The hotel is in a good spot - next door to the Shepherds Bush market on one side and a huge Westfields shopping complex on the other.

    First to get some money - used a street ATM to get 200 pounds [$A340] and then to get a Sim card. We bought a "EE" card for 15 pounds, 10Gb and more than enough calls and SMS for a month - cheap as chips. Found a Cath Kidston store, so we can get Sara a new bag - great.

    Time for my first beer. Two corner pubs nearby both offering Sunday roasts. Had a London Pale Ale for me and a G&T for Mary only to be told all roasts had been sold. Skulled our drinks and moved to the next pub, same story - no roasts left. Had a Hell beer and Mary a Prosecco. Mary had Fish and chips and I had Cambridge Sausage and Mash.

    Took a little walk around Shepherds Bush to get the lay of the land ... more to explore tomorrow.

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  • Day9

    That's not a clock - this is a clock ...

    August 1, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    First full day in London - a Monday I think. We started with a walk through the Shepherds Bush Market. I hoped it would be like the Victoria Market in Melbourne, and it was similar, but there were a lot of clothing shops - mainly with middle eastern styles. It was a bit smelly and not attractive enough for Mary to buy anything [yes it was that bad!].

    We decided on a change of pace and returned to the Westfield shopping centre - Mary and I took turns in trying out the Tesla cars - I want one please.

    Next it was the turn of Harrods. We went to see if Julian Assange was on the balcony - but no. Inside Harrods was amazing - such a clean department store, wide aisles and high quality stock. I was looking out for Mr Selfridge to pop out from behind a counter. Bought Sara some gifts - and others, why is it when you are holiday you spend so much time buying stuff for others, well it is for Mary's enjoyment I suppose.

    On one floor they have 5 luxury home layouts - I liked the clocks. A tall West Indian man [straight form "Death in Paradise" I expect] and with a pommy accent asked if he could help. I said, "how much for the clock [mate]". He said "you guess", well it did have some precious stones on it, so I said £35,000, he said "Close, it's £125,000" ... that won't be leaving the store with me. He apologised saying all our expensive stock is sold I'm afraid, and these are all we have left [poseur].

    I hear someone had acid thrown on their face by a passing motorcyclist last night outside Harrods . They say they do this to steal their bikes and then use them to commit crimes ...

    Pub meal again - why don't they have dark larger like White Rabbit, Tooheys Old or Carton Black? Tried a London Draught - it'll do.

    Tomorrow Museums - time for Deep Heat on the knees ....

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  • Day10

    Aint no mountain high enough .....

    August 2, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    I booked a Buckingham Palace tour for tomorrow, so for today we went into central London and do some shopping and museum visits.

    Took the rail to Kings Cross Station and sought out our next London Hotel and the Hertz Rental Car depot in Russell Square. We return to London in late August and I like to know where we are going beforehand if possible. We have stayed in Russell Square on the last two visits to London and love the area. Having walked past the British Museum so many times, I have always wanted to go inside - so a trip to the museum was essential.

    What a magnificent building both outside and inside. We walked past an unbelievable collection of antiquities - some from 6,000BC. We were amazed at the skill of the craftsmanship from so long ago - both small pieces and huge statues. Definitely worth a visit if you like old things.

    Next we had to decide, either go to another museum [Peter] or go shopping [Mary]. We couldn't decide so we just walked around London, ending up in Coventry Gardens then Leicester Square. The temptation to go to a West End Show hit us ... all the last minute stalls were offering very cheap prices. We thought we could go to Beautiful [the Carole King Story], Mama Mia or the Book of Mormon. The best seats we could get were for "Motown" and what a good choice that was. We stayed in the city and got the tube to the Shaftesbury Theatre. Great seats. We knew just about all the songs and a full theatre standing ovation at the end said it all.

    Well here we are going home on the tube at 11:00pm on a Tuesday night. There were so many people about, in bars, on the streets and on the tube. About half of them were office workers on their way home after a few pints ... what a lifestyle?

    Another great day on London - tomorrow to visit the Queen and celebrate Prince Phillip's last day on the job .... and maybe some more shopping?

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  • Day11

    Goodbye to Phil ....

    August 3, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    The forecast is for rain - but it looks okay outside. Today was all about going to Buckingham Palace - its high on Mary's must do list. Seemed easy, take the train to Regent Park and wander over to the Palace. Mary saw a toilet on the way, but I said, come on, we don't want to be late and there'll be plenty of toilets there ....

    We had booked through the Royal Collection Trust for the £20 audio guided tour for people over 60 to visit the 19 State Rooms. They let you in at your allotted time - we had booked for 9:30 before the big rush and high demand for tickets. You can book guided tour, but it is more expensive and you need to book well in advance. Having secured our tickets I asked about toilets. Well, there were none at the start of the 2 1/2 hour tour - but some at the end. We were directed to public toilets down the road and of course got lost. Found them in the end - Mary had to pay for the privilege but we made it back in time for the tour start.

    Buckingham Palace is great. The rooms have the standard you expect from any palace in Europe, but they are more interesting because they include rooms we have seen on the telly for royal occasions. I would highly recommend a visit. We didn't see Price Phillip on his final day of work - but he was there somewhere - in the parade grounds I think.

    After the tour of the State Rooms you leave via the gardens, a fairly long walk out the back. Of course it started to rain, then got heavier and heavier. We found a pub, I tried my first Ale for this trip London Pride - Yuk, and Mary did more of her diary as we dried off.

    Took the train back to our hotel and had a relaxing afternoon resting on the hotel bed [no room for chairs in our king sized room] and planning more of our holiday - you do need a break when travelling.

    Dinner was at Jamie Oliver's Italian at Shepherds Bush. We have been to his Convent Garden restaurant before and again the service was super friendly and happy. Nice meal too.

    Home for a glass of red and some chocolate - life is good.

    Tomorrow we pick up the hire car and head out of London to the north of England around Durham way - Mary navigating.

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