• Day27

    Day 27: Dubai - Sharjah & the Dubai Mall

    July 1, 2017 in the United Arab Emirates ⋅ ⛅ 44 °C

    Today we headed to Sharjah in the morning for a heritage and cultural tour. It was already 40 degrees at 9am, lucky we were in air conditioning for much of the morning.

    We visited the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation which was very interested, we got an insight into the Muslim religion and also learnt about the history of Islam in the fields of science, astrology, arts and architecture. Islam has more than 1.4 billion believers which is roughly one fifth of the worlds population and is also the worlds fastest growing religion. The word 'Islam' means 'submission or surrender to the will of Allah'. A Muslims faith rests on 'The Six Pillars of Inman (faith)'. They are the belief in Allah, in his angels, in his released scriptures, in his messengers, the day of judgement and the resurrection and divine predestination, hmmm, sounds very similar to Christianity.

    We also visited the Sharjah Heritage Museum and learnt about the history, customs and culture if the people of Sharjah and the UAE. The tour also included some photo stop opportunities at a couple of mosques as well as visited some souks. We enjoyed the tour and in particular gaining further insight into the Muslim religion, I find the history of religions, cultures, civilisations and ideas to be fascinating and just wish people were more tolerant of others and willing to learn from other cultures and religions instead of the prevailing bigotry that some people seem to want to foster.

    Anyway, we got back to the hotel a bit after midday and decided to have a few hours sleep given we didn't get a lot last night. It was also extremely hot so we didn't really want to be outside. However later in the afternoon we decided to grab a taxi and head to the Dubai Mall. Whilst I'm not one for shopping malls I did enjoying wandering around this one. Not only due to the air conditioning but the people watching was great and a distinct contrast to the faces we have been seeing in Scandinavia and the Netherlands. I love all the different types of dress here and particularly am intrigued by the women in the burqas. Maybe it's the dress and face covering that accentuates their eyes but these woman generally all have beautiful eyes.

    While at the mall we did a bit of shopping and also watched the fountain show in front of the Burj Khalifa which was quite impressive. Looking up at the Burj Khalifa is also something to behold and I can't believe they are planning to build an even taller building. After the show we enjoyed some decadent chocolate dishes at a restaurant next to the ice rink. They were delicious. When we left the mall at 8pm it was already dark outside, this is a bit of a novelty for us given our days for the last month have been so long and we've hardly seen any night time.

    The only thing that I don't enjoy in Dubai is the the hot weather, but we'll have to grin and bear it tomorrow as we are spending the day in Abu Dhabi and I'm really looking forward to learning more about this fascinating region. Tomorrow is also our last day on holiday so our epic adventure is coming to an end.
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  • Day27

    Day 26: Dubai - Its hot!

    July 1, 2017 in the United Arab Emirates ⋅ 🌙 30 °C

    A slow start after our big night last night but we still got going early enough to have one last walk around prior to checking out.

    It was lucky we got to airport early as it took ages to check bags in and get through security.

    Our flight was ok but we went through more turbulence on this flight than any other we've been on.

    We arrived in Dubai a bit after midnight and it is 37 degrees, apparently the UAE is experiencing a heat wave at the moment so it's going to be hotter than normal. We are now at our hotel, it's 2am. We are heading on a tour to Sharjah tomorrow and need to ready by 7.50am so better get some sleep.
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  • Day26

    Day 25: Amsterdam - Our favourite city!

    June 30, 2017 in the Netherlands ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Today started slowly as we did some souvenir shopping in the morning before heading out to the Jordaan area for a walk around, this is one of my favourite areas of Amsterdam. We enjoyed being in Jordaan wandering the streets and admiring the buildings, watching the people and meeting the local cats. We stopped at a favourite little shop and got a sausage roll and some chocolate. We tried to visit the Poezenboot but there was a line up so we kept wandering some more.

    We then decided to head over to Voldelpark which is another of our favourite places. Another tram trip and some more wandering and it was time to put the feet up and relax on our last night in our favourite city.

    So this afternoon and evening was spent enjoying drinks at some of our favourite watering holes around the Oude Church.

    It was a late night but loads of fun.
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  • Day24

    Day 24: Amsterdam - Lekker!

    June 28, 2017 in the Netherlands ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    All I really want to talk about today is the food I ate, it was lekker! But before I do that perhaps an overview of what we did today is in order.

    After a delicious breakfast, where I enjoyed some hagelslag, ham, cheese and boiled eggs, see it's all about the food today, better get to the story. So we had breakfast and decided to wander over to the Amsterdam Museum and get there when it opens. We almost had the place to ourselves for a while which was a good change to last time when the place was packed. Anyway, we enjoyed looking around and found some exhibits we hadn't seen before. We then decided to tram it across town to the De Gooyer Windmill, the tallest windmill in the country. The windmill was quite impressive and next door is the Breouwerij't, a small brewery, unfortunately we were too early to try the beer as it didn't open until the afternoon.

    It was time to grab another tram and head towards the bridge where you can see 15 bridges in the centre of the city. We walked down Utrechtsplein and then back up along Spiegelkwartier where there are several arts aimed antique stops. This was a fun neighbourhood to walk around with many people and cyclists about. Some more trams rides and we found ourselves at the Waterlooplein Markets. It was here that we enjoyed lunch from a small van. Kroketten in bread with friets and mayo the fare. I was in heaven, but I digress, back to our travels.

    While at the markets it started to rain so we needed to seek some shelter, we came cross the Rembrant House Museum which Is the location where he spent most of his life. It was quite good but we weren't there long so had to fill some more time looking through some shops. When the rain cleared enough it was back onto a tram to Rembrantplein to stop for a drink. Another tram and we were back in Dam Square where we did a bit more souvenir shopping.

    We circled around for a while prior to heading out for tea. We decided to eat at the 'The Pantry' in Leidseplein to have a Dutch meal. We must have been very lucky to get a seat as we only got a table if we could be out in an hour, this seemed OK, I was happy to eat as quickly as they could get the food out, and many people were turned away while we sat there. It seemed to be a very popular restaurant and after sampling their fare I can see why. I had the pea soup followed by a combo of hutspot, zuurkool-en boerenkoolstampot with a meatball and vlaflip for dessert. Amy had the Dutch steak and poffertjes. It was all washed down with a Dutch red wine. It was a sensational feed, I highly recommend the restaurant.

    After dinner it was time to put the feet up and relax over a few ciders at Leidseplein and later at Stones, a bar around the corner from our hotel.

    We were not going to do much at all today but as it turned out we did in excess of 20,000 steps and many kilometres of tram rides zig zagging around the city, it is so easy to get around. I just love being here and exploring the city, finding new spots I haven't been to and revisiting other favourite spots and to top it off we had some lekker Dutch food to boot. What a sensational day.
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  • Day24

    Day 23: Amsterdam - Back Again!

    June 28, 2017 in the Netherlands ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    I can now say that i have flown KLM, I've always wanted to fly with them. Our flight from Stockholm to Amsterdam was excellent, getting the emergency exit row was a bonus and we enjoyed the extra leg room, wish we could get these seats for the long haul flights back to Australia.

    Anyway, we have arrived back in Amsterdam and I am very happy to be back in my favourite city. Whilst I enjoyed visiting Scandinavia I just love being in this city. We enjoyed a few drinks, some people watching and wandered around the centrum area taking in the sights before returning to our now favourite Chinese restaurant, Sechuan which is just around the corner from our hotel for another Peking banquet. Our timing was impeccable as we also managed to get the window table again as well.

    There appears to be be a lot more people in the city today compared to 2 weeks ago which has added to the vibrancy of the city. There is also the ever present smell of pot, it seems many of the English tourists prefer to smoke outside than in the coffee shops. All to their own I guess.

    We are very happy to be back and also happy we have a much better room at the hotel which is a bonus. We are having an early night and look forward to relaxing over the next few days while enjoying this sensational city.
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  • Day22

    Day 22: Stockholm - The end of the Tour

    June 26, 2017 in Sweden ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    Today was our final day on the tour and whilst I have enjoyed seeing so much of Scandinavia over the last 12 days or so I am happy to have completed the tour so we can do our own thing again. Our tour director, Andre, was excellent, extremely knowledgeable, always went beyond the call of duty with assistance and has the patience of a saint dealing with some of our fellow tour members. We have made some great friends, namely Luke and Bec and Adrian and have some wonderful memories to take away. Some of the group were very friendly and genuinely nice people and some were very well travelled so it was interesting to listen to some of their stories and gaining insights and ideas for future holidays. However there was an element of our group were just rude and some who were just snobs and looked down their nose at us but I did find it funny how one in particular reminded me of the Kath and Kim alter egos, Prue and Trude. I am also always confounded how oblivious some people are to their surroundings and to what is going on around them. Anyway enough about the tour group but overall we ended the tour and happy to have met and made friends with some great people.

    We saw some more of Stockholm today and was particularly impressed by the City Town Hall and the Vasa Museum. At the town hall I learnt that they have 101 elected members and they meet every fortnight. I think I will be thankful we only have 11 at home. The Vasa Museum was amazing and I'm glad we were recommended to go there.

    Tonight was our final meal with our new friends from the tour. It was an enjoyable night and we are all excited for the next phase of our respective holidays.

    We leave Stockholm tomorrow but would be happy to return one day, it's a beautiful and interesting place.
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  • Day21

    Day 21: Stockholm - Swedish Meatballs!

    June 25, 2017 in Sweden ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    Today we headed for Stockholm. On the way we stopped at a village called Mariefeld, it's quite idyllic. It started raining when we arrived but it didn't last long and the sun came back out which was fortunate as we dressed expecting warmer weather and it was a bit fresh for a while there. At Mariefeld we visited the Gripsholm Castle which dates back to the 1380's, walked around the parklands and into the Main Street. It was quite a relaxing little place and good break for the trip to Stockholm.

    Once in Stockholm we checked into our hotel which is opposite the Bromma Airport and then headed into the city. Stockholm is definitely one of the most beautiful cities I've visited. I loved walking around the old town which is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centres in Europe. I think it may have the edge on Bergen for the mantle of most beautiful city in Scandinavia but it is hard to compared as they are so different.

    For tea tonight we dined at a restaurant called Kaffegillet in the old town. The food was quite good and of course we had to have Swedish meat balls however I especially enjoyed the onion soup, and we managed to eat way too much, again. I feel Iike I've doubled in size this holiday.

    Tomorrow we will explore some more of this beautiful city and also visit the Vasa Museum which we are looking forward to.
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  • Day20

    Day 20: Karlstad - Made it to Sweden!

    June 24, 2017 in Sweden ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    Today was a travelling day, our first stop was at the Lillehammer Ski Jump which was used for the 1994 Olympics. Unfortunately we were held up at the shop so we could only take the chair lift up and back and not spend much time up the top. The views were great all the same and the highlight was seeing three ski jumpers training, these guys are amazing and we got a video of one of the jumps they did. I could have stayed and watched them for ages.

    The countryside has changed completely again, no longer are we in the mountains and the terrain is undulating with large forests and farm areas again. The weather today has also been perfect which has added to the great experience. We stopped for lunch at the Norwegian and Swedish border, our last taste of Norway.

    Today Andre our guide told us his life story, his time in the Soviet army and in particular what he had to do to seek political asylum from the old USSR. His tenacity, work ethic and courage was inspiring. He has worked hard since getting out of the USSR and made a great life for himself and his family. I could only think during his story of how many Andres are sitting in Manus Island right now or the other inhumane refugee prisons we have created. Just people wanting a new chance in life yet we decide to treat them deplorably, it's a disgrace.

    We are now in Sweden for the last leg of our Scandinavian tour. Tonight we are in Karlstad. It's another beautiful city that is easy to walk around. We walked for well over an hour this evening checking out the city. We are loving these cities that are so pedestrian and bicycle friendly. I wish our cities back home were similar, I believe it would create so any opportunities and improvements to our lifestyle and perspective on the world.

    Apparently all Scandinavians are celebrating the mid summer holiday this weekend which means many people have left the cities for the countryside so we pretty much had the place to ourselves tonight. Tea was enjoyed at a local Italian restaurant and I can say is Swedish Calzone's rival those that I have enjoyed back home.

    It's an early night tonight catching up on the sleep we didn't get last night.
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  • Day19

    Day 19: Fegernes - Time for an Aquavit!

    June 23, 2017 in Norway ⋅ ☁️ 11 °C

    After another awesome breakfast we headed off through Norway again. The weather had become quite wet so thankfully we were in the bus this morning. Our first stop was at Voss where we enjoyed a cup of coffee and tea and one of the best vanilla slices we've ever had. It was raining at Voss so we didn't much else but hang out in the cafe.

    We then ventured to the Sognefjord to catch a ferry from Gudvangen to Laerdal. Whilst the scenery was breathtaking the weather was not good so we needed ponchos to protect us from the rain. I enjoyed the ferry ride but some on the tour didn't, I guess the tour guide need to be god so he can control the weather as well. You have to make the best of it and at least we didn't get sunburnt!

    After the ferry ride we continued our bus trip into the eastern side of Norway passing by the highest mountain range in Scandinavia.

    We arrived in Fagernes at around 6pm and went for walk around town prior to dinner. Dinner was buffet and the food was ok but they did run out at times due to the number of people in the restaurant. It was disappointing seeing people on our tour blaming another tour of Asians for this when we were eating just as much if not more than them. It was the kitchen that wasn't keeping up and as it turned out the people who were late and patient probably got the best of the food.

    After tea Amy and I, Bec and Luke and Adrian decided to adjourn to the bar and try Aquavit, the local drink. We ended up trying three types as well as a few jacks and Jameson's and had a bit of a night out in the bar. We had a lot of fun and have souvenired some shot glasses to remember the night. The drinks were expensive so it's the least we could do! Ha!

    A great fun night was had and we are enjoying our holiday very much however the tour is quickly coming to an end. Only three more sleeps left.
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  • Day18

    Day 18: Bergen - A Beautiful City

    June 22, 2017 in Norway ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    Today started with a look around this beautiful city and learn't more about its history and the culture of Norway. After travelling around the city we visited Bryggen which is a series of Hanseatic commercial buildings along the eastern side of the Vagen harbour in Bergen. The buildings facing the harbour all lean to the right due to a massive explosion on the harbour during WWII. We also visited the Hanseatic Museum which tells how the German merchants in Bergen lived from around 1360 to 1760's. The museum is one of the best preserved timber buildings at Bryggen.

    After the morning tour we wandered around the city visiting Lille Lungegardsvann, a lake in the centre of the city, the fish market and also wandered in some shops and bought the obligatory fridge magnet.

    In the afternoon we joined the tour to the museum and house which was the home of Norways most famous composer, Edvard Grieg. I'm no aficionado of classical music but he composed some music that we have all heard, likely on TV ads, such as Morning Moon, Piano Concerto in A Minor and In The Hall of the Mountain King. Apparently he was the Michael Jackson of his time from the 1860's to 1900's. I think I would have liked Grieg if I was alive in these times, especially given he apparently was critical of authorities, criticised the established church, religious pietism and all forms of dogmatism but he did marry his first cousin and that's just wrong/odd in any era. To be honest, I wasn't really into the visit to the museum and house, we had learnt about Grieg (and listened to some of his music) during the bus trip yesterday and that was enough for me. All we really wanted to do to this afternoon was take the funicular up to Mount Floyen to check out the city from this vantage point. Especially as the skies looked threatening today and we wanted to get up the mountain before the rain arrived. Anyway, we got up to the mountain just as the mist started to roll in so whilst we got a good look at the city the surrounding mountains were obscured by the misty rain. Anyway, it was a bit disappointing and in hindsight we would be better off doing our own thing today or taken Bec and Luke's lead and not doing the afternoon tour. But we are all geniuses in hindsight and we had a good day overall.

    After being up the mountain it was time to enjoy a quiet beverage at the Irish Pub, Bec and Luke joined us as they fortunately wandered past just after we grabbed a drink. The funniest moment occurred when my chair decided to collapse under me which gave the others a good laugh. I thought the chair felt dodgy and when I leaned back down I went.

    We went back to the hotel to drop off some things (this has been the best hotel so far with regard to location, comfort and the breakfast is awesome), on the way back out we ran into Adrian. There also happened to be some terrorist training drill happening outside the hotel at the same time with police running around with guns drawn on a truck that they intercepted, it was all a bit surreal until it clicked that it was a drill.

    We had tea at the same restaurant as last night with Adrian, Bec and Luke, this time I had the wings and ribs, delicious! After tea Amy bought a Viking drinking horn as a souvenir of our trip, it will look good on our wine cabinet.

    We love Bergen and had a good day overall.
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