Travel - 2010 Europe & USA Trip
Here are all the posts from my 2010 trip in a nicely ordered format, sorted by country. I have also included some photos at the start! Note that all posts will open up in a new window.
- Christchurch to Hong Kong
- Istanbul Day 1
- Istanbul Day 2
- Istanbul Day 3
- Istanbul Day 4
- Istanbul Day 5
- To Edirne
- To Sofia
Germany, Switzerland & Liechtenstein
- Konstanz Day 1
- Konstanz Day 2
- Konstanz Day 3
- Konstanz Day 4
- Konstanz Day 5
- Konstanz Day 6
- To Hamburg
- Hamburg Day 1
- Hamburg Day 2
- To Paris
- To London
- London Day 1
- London Day 2
- London Day 3
- Wolseley Breakfast Review
- London Day 4
- To New York
- New York Day 1
- New York Day 2
- New York Day 3
- New York Day 4
- New York Day 5
- To Columbus, Ohio
- Columbus to New York to San Francisco
- San Francisco
- San Francisco to Christchuch
9th - 11th July 2010 So, I flew back to Auckland and then back to Christchurch, losing a day because of the time difference. I think Air New Zealand is actually a quite superior airline, the staff are excellent, they serve familiar drinks (L&P!), with familiar accents, and they are helpful to a fault. I think the back-of-seat entertainment system that Air New Zealand has is also one of the best I have come across and they are planning to upgrade it to a touch screen system at the end of the year.
29th June - 9th July 2010 I have decided to present all of my time in San Francisco in one post, for two reasons. Firstly, I’m just a little lazy and the thought of trying to remember everything I did for each of ten days scares me. Secondly, for some of those days, as I was nearing the end of the trip, I really didn’t do all that much! I will divide it up into sections, the largest being about my adventures within the city itself.
28th-29th June 2010 The convention, having finished, left me exhausted and with a box of boardgames and other bits and bobs to cart home. I managed a few more hours of sleep than my usual 6 or 7 and headed off to the airport. I retraced my steps to the hostel - plane, bus, and 3 subways, well, actually 4 because I mucked up, with an extra box. Fun! I spent the late afternoon in town.
23rd-27th June 2010 Origins is the second largest convention (after Gencon) in the US dedicated to role playing and table-top gaming. Every year for the last thirty-five, up to fifteen thousand individuals (geeks and other insundry), have gathered for five days of fun filled gaming related events. This convention is set in Columbus, Ohio, the largest city in the state with about a million inhabitants. This year, I had the pleasure of attending the convention for all five days.
22nd June 2010 Today, I got all my stuff together, caught three subways and then a bus to La Guardia. Then, check in, more security than an international flight, and we were on our way! I sat around and waited for a few hours for our flight which was notoriously badly signed. Eventually we got a bus out to the small plane on the tarmac and after much more waiting, headed off to Columbus, Ohio.
21st June 2010 Today was my last proper day in New York. My first port of call was technically not part of the USA. The United Nations headquarters have been based in NY since its inception, however the piece of land they occupy is technically independent of the USA. The flags of the world hang still, lined up in front of a New York avenue, like a huge firing squad at rest.
20th June 2010 Today, I grabbed an iced coffee (for mental fortitude) and headed to the Met. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the largest and most extensive museums/art galleries in the world. It has vast collections on everything from Henry VIIIs armour to illustrated scenes from the Ramayana. On entering, my laptop was physically inspected, my bag was searched, I acquired an audio guide, and delved in. I had been interested in visiting since I saw the Thomas Crown Affair many years ago (which, while set in the Met was not actually filmed there).
19th June 2010 Today I started off a little late and headed to the Upper East Side. As I had forsaken breakfast and it was getting on for lunch time, I found a fantastic little cafe called Le Pain Quotidien. The atmosphere was great, with a whole mix of society tucking into healthy fare. I had a bowl of gazpacho and then an open sandwich. The sandwiches were really rather cool, they loaded up slivers of bread with avocado, peppers, cress, and all manner of good things and then provided lemon wedges and a tahini dressing; it almost required a knife and fork.
18th June 2010 I tried to introduce a savory element to breakfast this morning with the addition of some Vegemite has had procured in London, but it was still not very satisfying - I think I will have to avoid it from now on for my own health. I headed into town and caught the 4 line north to 110th st, at the top end of Central Park. I wandered through the park for a couple of hours (this place is huge!
17th June 2010 I had forced myself to go to bed not to early as yesterday had been a literally long day. But, I still managed to wake up fairly early. I ventured downstairs to discover exactly what breakfast was to be provided. Now, I can’t say that this is actually representative of the US or even New York, but I was a little shocked, especially having spent a month in Europe.
16th June 2010 Today it was time for a change of continent. I lounged around the hostel in the morning, packing my stuff, sorting my day bag to make sure liquids were removed, grabbing breakfast and the like. I caught the tube to Heathrow, with a brief stop to buy a book in Piccadilly. Getting to the terminal was fairly straight forward and I had two and a half hours to spare.
15th June 2010 This morning I headed to South Kensington. I felt rather out of place. I saw Harrods, the V&A (Victoria & Albert Museum), and the Science Museum. Maybe it was just that I have been to these places before and almost nothing has changed. Oh, they are interesting sure. But it is just more of the same, especially after all of the museums I have seen recently. Maybe, I was just in a weird mood.
14th June 2010 This morning I had a fantastic breakfast a the Wolseley, which I reviewed earlier. You can read it here. After this expose of upper class society, I found my way through Green Park to Buckingham Palace, just in time to watch the changing of the guard. There was much fanfare, a marching band, a mounted brigade, and much gesturing, all in front of a sea of tourists.
13th June 2010 Sarah Moore (UCanDancer) and I met up at the Lucky 7 American diner, in an obscure neighbourhood in the NW of London. However, the meeting hampered by two things - firstly, my watch had decided to just change time by an hour, so I was an hour early. When the diner was still closed, I was little surprised… It took me a while to figure it out!
12th June 2010 I caught the bus to Notting Hill first thing this morning. My destination, along with most of the rest of London, was the Portabello Market. This market, which stretches more than 10 blocks, is divided into different sections covering new and used clothes, antiques, produce, and food stalls. From tacky sunglasses, jewellery, and clichéd slogan-imprinted t-shirts, to a shop where all of the windows are full of old Singer sewing machines.
11th June 2010 Shena took me to the station mid-morning to catch the train back to London and in a few hours I was back at Euston station. From here, I caught the tube to Swiss Cottage and found my hostel, a restored Victorian home that seemed rather popular with Americans. I dumped my stuff and headed out to explore the city, stopping at a rather awesome little open market just down the street to procure (for only £4) a massive serving of all sorts of vegetarian Egyptian cuisine - from falafel and eggplant, to stews, salads, pilaf, and other deliciousness.
9th-10th June 2010 I thought I would write these two days together. Both of my aunts work fairly long or at the very least strange hours teaching teaching staff to do stuff better. So the first day, Yvonne was away during the day. Shena and I ran some errands in the nearby town of Sandbach. My aunt and uncle, Penny and Q, came up from Warrick and we had a spot of lunch with lots of exciting things including no less than seven different types of cheese.
I’m now home. Blog posts will get up here when I’ve finished editing them. In the mean time, here are some photos from the USA. Click here! Update 2017-4-17: Fixed the broken URL
8th June 2010 Today, after a leisurely start and having given up on breakfast at the hostel entirely, I saddled up my pack and braved the subway to Gare de Nord. I left my luggage here (after a fairly thorough scanning process) and went in search of a bakery that Angela had recommended. I found it after a short walk. For my (and your) future reference, the place is Du Pain et des Idées (34 Rue Yves Toudic).
7th June 2010 I headed out a little later today than yesterday, my first stop was the Galeries Lafayette, specifically the food court - the height of French gastronomy. Well at least the closest that I know of as a tourist in Paris. They have lots of delicious stuff and after wandering and drooling, I bought a loaf of bread, some veges, and delicious cheese and headed down to the Jardin des Tuileries where I sat and people watched while gluttonously indulging in an early lunch.
6th June 2010 A squeaky bed, loud dorm mates, and an open curtain encouraged an early rising. After sampling the delights of the breakfast room - synthetic coffee and orange juice, hunks of cheap baguettes, jam, La Vache Qui Rit cheese wedges, apple sauce and something that vaguely resembled cereal, I headed off to explore the town. After a prolonged subway journey, my first stop was the Pompidou centre. Unfortunately, I misjudged the French propensity for rising late - the museum was not to open until 11am.
Here are a few photos from the Origins Game Show, 23rd-27th June, Columbus, OH. I will post a written report on the event in a few days. Update 2017-4-17: Fixed the broken URL
5th June 2010 Another train journey was the order of the day! After saying goodbye to Elaine (who I think was rather sad not to be going travelling again herself) I headed into Hamburg and caught the train to Koln, then onto the Thalys high-speed service to Paris. This still took about eight hours, but it seems to be the quickest way other than flying to get there. We got up to 300km/h as we headed through Belgium and the straight down to Paris.
4th June 2010 Today it was back into town, to the famous fish market. It happened to be a Friday rather than a Sunday, so nothing was happening (I was well aware of this!), but I peered into the windows and looked out over the river. I then headed along the waterfront to the U-434, an Soviet submarine, decommissioned after the Cold War. It is open for visitors and so I took a, well, clamber inside.
3rd June 2010 Today, Elaine and her friend Pia, took me on a whirlwind tour of the sites in Hamburg! We started fairly early with a visit to a nearby nature reserve, Brunsberg, where we walked up the highest hill in the area - an arduous 5 minute wander. Pretty forest and not-quite-flowering purple brush, interspersed with the sight of birds of prey and caterpillars. We looked out over rural Germany until it disappeared into the morning haze.
2nd June 2010 Today, I spent basically the entire day on the train. There was forest, hills, towns, cities, wind farms, streams, rivers, highways, tunnels, bridges and all the usual things you see from a train. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Angela made me poridge for breakfast - with frozen blueberries, which was delicious, and then escorted me to the train station. I grabbed some bits and pieces for lunch on the way.
1st June 2010 Today, I got moving pretty swiftly as I had a lot of ground to cover. I caught the train (with several changes) to St. Gallen, east of Konstanz, in Switzerland. St. Gallen is a classic northern Swiss city (well, somewhere between a town and a city). You can walk down certain streets and feel that you are in a cliché - chocolate shops and banks abound. I spotted a Migros - one of the large supermarket chains in Switzerland.
Here is a brief selection of photos from Western Europe. Check out the link! Update 2017-4-17: Fixed the broken URL
Here are some photos from Eastern Europe (up till Germany). Follow this link! Update 2017-4-17: Fixed the broken URL
I am a little behind in my diary, but will hopefully catch up soon, in the mean time I promised a review of a recent breakfasting experience… Breakfast at the Wolseley The Wolseley is an institution in London. Its initial construction in 1923 bankrupted the commissioning company - Wolseley Motors Limited, so it became a bank for seventy years, until in 2003, it was recommissioned into the ultimate European cafe-restaurant.
31st May 2010 Today I headed out fairly early to explore the the area to the north and west of Konstanz. Firstly, I headed down to the harbour and caught a high speed catamaran to Friedrichshafen on the far side of the lake. So far this is only form of transport I have been on that actually has WiFi and it was free! The misty rolling hills and little towns that come down to the lake front were very beautiful and the ride was very smooth.
30th May 2010 Today, as expected, it rained. For most of the day, we stayed inside and just relaxed. We had baked Camembert for lunch, with crusty half baked bread. It was delicious! You can actually buy cheese specifically packaged for the purpose of baking - I thought that was awesome! In the afternoon, the weather had improved sufficiently to head out to a cafe for some afternoon tea, I had a delicious mandarin cheese cake.
29th May 2010 Today started with a morning trip to the Saturday market, just down the road from Angela’s flat. The stalls filled up the narrow residential street, sporting bunches of herbs, vast rounds of cheese, cakes, pastries, assorted selections of white asparagus (the vege in season), breads, and olives. A gastronomic paradise - one could even find such things as salad burnett and sorrell in the mix. We bought up a variety of cheeses, strawberries, herbs, and olives and headed to Lukas’ place for breakfast.
28th May 2010 As I mentioned yesterday, Konstanz is a fantastic city for biking, so today Angela and I (borrowing Lukas’ bike) set of for the first of two trips. First, we headed through town and across the border into Switzerland. Fairly close to the city is a rather good chocolate factory, we biked up and bought lots at the sufficiently cheap factory shop. Unfortunately, the factory doesn’t offer tours around it, but it did smell pretty fantastic.
27th May 2010 We arrived in Zurich at precisely 9:14 in the morning. Swiss trains are naught but prompt! The station was extremely busy, but I managed to get myself a ticket to Konstanz and a coffee (at 3.90CHF it was rather on the pricey side!). Then back onto another train. This one took the whole punctuality thing to another level - at one point they announced (in three languages no less) that the train had been delayed by - shock, horror!
26th May 2010 Today I tiptoed around my dorm at 8am. It seems that most travellers tend to like drinking until 4 and sleeping till 11, which is slightly at odds with my usual timetable! I sorted my stuff out as quietly as possible and headed across town (by tram and underground) to the main station. Here I left my bags, grabbed breakfast, brought tickets, and did all the usual train station type stuff.
25th May 2010 I met up with Lenka at 10:30 at the bottom of Castle Hill. Surprise, surprise, it was raining. We joked how I had not been able to escape the rain since I left Bucharest. The ability to influence European weather patterns seems to be a speciality of mine. As we reached the entrance to the castle itself, we looked out over the slightly sodden city. It was a beautiful sight - gothic church spires rear above the streets and narrow alleys cross the Old City, intersecting at haphazard angles.
24th May 2010 Today, after a rather extensive breakfast at the hostel, I headed out to experience the wonders of Prague. I caught the tram to Wencelas Square, right in the centre of New Town. Prague is confusingly divided into 23 districts, but no one uses that system, except for official purposes. It used to be divided into 10 different districts and most people still use this definition, even most of the street signs use it.
23rd May 2010 Today was mainly a day of travel. I got up at reasonable hour (considering I went to bed around 4) and packed all my stuff up. Saying goodbye to my fantastic host Maria, I caught the UBahn (underground) to Wien Miedling, where I caught the train to Praha (Prague). This took 4 1⁄2 hours on one of the newer Czech “high-speed” trains. It had a weird baby blue, silver, and yellow paint job that was surprisingly not garish.
22nd May 2010 Today everything was all go at some ungodly hour in the morning. Maria headed off to spend the day filming knights in front of green screens, it sounds exciting! I headed off in the other direction, firstly through town to try and find (for about the fifth time) a particular book - still no luck! Then I headed out to Schonbrunn Park to find the zoo. If you ask any locals about it, the first thing they will tell you is that it is the oldest zoo in the world.
21st May 2010 Today, I headed to the centre of town and started my day with a jaunt along Mariahilfer Strasse, to the Museum Quarter. Yes, the city has an entire region/area dedicated to museums! Vienna is very modern in some respects and very traditional in others. It has a modern transport system that rivals the punctuality of its German counterparts, most people don’t own cars, the inner city streets feature modern materialistic goods (some exceedingly posh), the gardens are beautifully maintained, and rubbish is just not an issue here.
20th May 2010 Today, I organised myself, mucked about, ate lunch, booked tickets, and did other vitally important things. Then at 2pm, I headed out to Budapest Keleti, the main train station. I caught the train, an express ‘RailJet’ to Vienna. It managed to get up to 160k/hr. I really felt the German influence, with screens throughout the train informing one of the current speed, the next destination, the scheduled and predicted arrival times.
19th May 2010 Today I did lots of walking. This started off with a walk to the Parliamentary Buildings on the banks of the Danube. Another ornate and beautifully decorated building, with cool statues, gilded ceilings, and eye-popping decorations. I won’t bother you about the details of the decoration, but the building and the process of visiting it is interesting. Upon arriving, one finds the tourist waiting area, situated 25m from the building itself.
18th May 2010 Today the weather was still pretty bad, even the locals were complaining! Firstly, I headed south to a find a bookshop near the synagogue I visited yesterday. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the book I was looking for, their website had lied; maybe it is just my ability to understand Magyar (Hungarian) that is lacking. After this, I wandered through the old Jewish quarter behind the synagogue, trying to spot signs of the 1944-45 ghetto.
17th May 2010 We arrived in Budapest, after much stopping and starting, at least two hours late. It was raining, windy, and cold. I had not booked a hostel, but I knew of one that looked OK, so I caught the underground. Unfortunately, I misread my map and got out at a station that wasn’t the line change station, that confused the hell out of me. Anyhow, I got back on track and eventually found the hostel.
16th May 2010 I have been everywhere today! When I managed to drag myself out of bed, I headed off, via local bus, to the Autogara 2. Many towns seem to have two bus stations - one for intercity buses and the other for more local journeys that are too long for the urban bus system to cover. Seems sensible enough. From here I caught a bus (I bet you didn’t guess that!
15th May 2010 Today I set out to explore a little of Romania’s countryside, especially an area in the Carpathians in the centre of Transylvania. I caught the 8:30 train from Bucharest north to Sinaia. This town, once called the “summer capital” of Romania, is now a ski town in winter and far less populated for the rest of the year. Ironic. It was named after a wealthy fellow travelled to Mount Sinai and was impressed enough to name his retreat in the area after it.
14th May 2010 Today was a little unproductive. After a little bit of a sleep in and all of the odd chores that come with travelling - sorting, repacking, laundry, and research. I headed out for a bit of a walk through the northern side of the city. I had heard it had a quite different atmosphere and there were a few bits and pieces I wanted to see there. Bucharest’s metro and public transport, like the city itself, is spaced out with only rare stations.
13th May 2010 Both of my cabin-mates snored, both were just a little drunk. The Israeli was quintessentially Israeli. Rather obnoxious really… maybe it was just the snoring. The Bulgarian was an interesting character. He was a helicopter pilot during the cold war and flew nuclear warheads around Bulgaria. He now works as a Foundry Engineer. And such it was till 3am. Rudely awakened (well those snoring were) to provide our passports, we were treating to a fantastic sight.
12th May 2010 As we speak, I am lying in the middle bunk of a couchette, on the night train that is about to depart for Bucharesti… Its now an hour and a half later and darkness has fallen over Bulgaria. Above me is an older Israeli chap and below is a snoozing Bulgarian from Sofia going to a conference near Bucharest. Amusingly, the key speaker is a New Zealander.
11th May 2010 Today started by hand washing all of my laundry. Glamorous, I know! It took rather a long time and I started out to the city centre rather late. My first port of call was the mosque of Sofia, I thought it would be fitting given previous experiences and this mosque was also built (in the architectural sense) by Sinan. It should be noted that Sofia used to be part of the Ottoman empire and 11% of the population is still muslim.
10th May 2010 Today, I left Turkey. After getting everything packed up, grabbing a snack for breakfast, and getting some nibbles for the journey, I headed to the main street to catch a dolmus (small local bus). The one I was waiting for took almost an hour to arrive, good thing I had allowed lots of spare time! I ended up waiting with a very friendly change smoking native who helped me out as he was going in my direction.
9th May 2010 Today I walked around Edirne, exploring the town and visiting the sites. This included four mosques and two museums. I was almost surprised when I woke up that I hadn’t been robbed in my sleep and I had actually slept fairly well. The shared toilet/shower facilities were actually surprising usable once you got used to the idea of the shower being in the same place as the eastern (hole in the floor) style toilet.
Here are some photos from Turkey. Follow this link! Update 2017-4-17: Fixed the broken URL
8th May 2010 Today, I got packed up and said goodbye to the girls and Simon. When I left they (the girls) were watching sleepily from bed. Awww, cute! I made my way to Taksim on the subway and eventually managed to catch the 83O to the Otogar (bus station). Unfortunately, I had to wait almost an hour and a half for the bus as they decided to cancel one without telling anyone, including several rather irate Turks.
7th May 2010 Today, Simon had a day off work! After a bit of a sleep in, we decided to head to the Prince’s Islands. They are to the south of the city, in the Marmaris Sea. In order to get there we caught the subway, then the metrobus, then light rail, then boat. I am constantly impressed by Istanbul’s public transport system, especially when the size of the city is obvious.
6th May 2010 I’m a couple of days behind, but before I talk about the 6th, I’m currently on a bus from Istanbul to Edirne. The Turks know how to do buses! They have plush comfortable seats with a screen in the back of the seat playing local TV. I have mine currently set to a camera at the front of the bus. Its flasher than most airlines. Anyhow, back to the 6th.
5th May, 2010 Today was a day of gastronomical pleasures! Today we headed off to the Asian shore, catching a ferry across the Bosphorus to Kadikoy. We wandered through the streets and even a car park, eventually we found what we were looking for, what Simon had recommended. A small bazaar, selling the best of Turkish produce and products. In the middle of this hub of culinary goodness, is a famed restaurant, Ciya Sofrasi.
4th May 2010 As everyone was sleepy and in holiday mode, no one was up till late and we barely made it out of the house until 11! I say house in a colloquial fashion, Simon’s 6th floor apartment is an experience! Mere blocks from the metro and a major shopping area, it has a great location. In addition the view out over Istanbul is pretty fabulous. The flat itself has seen better days, but ingenious systems for filling the toilet cistern, stopping the electric hot water heater from overloading the fuse and internet shared with a family living in the basement keep the place ticking over.
3rd May 2010 Arriving at Istanbul at 2:20am was not something I was expecting to enjoy; I was expecting a deep and overriding desire to fall asleep where I stood, long waits for things to even open, and after four flights, for my luggage to have been delayed somewhere. But for the most part, everything went smoothly, customs only took ten minutes! I caught a 4am bus into town (all the pretty lights!
2nd May 2010 A rambling… I’m sitting here, looking out at the wing. We are ridding high over the Himalayas. Well, the Tibetan side at any rate. We have been in quite serious turbulence. I have just finished lunch with excellent German beer and a nice flight attendant has collected my tray and provided me with a large baileys! Ah, this is the life! Just drunk enough not to care about the huge updrafts shaking the plane… If one dares to look out the window the wings can be seen moving at least a meter vertically up and down.
1st-2nd May 2010 Well, it has been a while since I have traveled overseas, about five years. In fact I will have be in Turkey over the same dates that I was 5 years ago; I’ll have my second birthday in that country. I think that that’s a little weird but I suppose that is up to interpretation. In this trip I will start my travels in Istanbul, making my way across Eastern Europe, with the intention of ending up in Paris.