Seasons Greetings

Hope everyone had a great Christmas! We are definitely missing friends and family (and sunshine) at this time of year! We had Christmas dinner with a few of Niki's workmates which was fun. One of the girls cooked a massive roast turkey and all the trimmings all by herself, legendary! We look forward to pavalova and all the other kiwi treat next Christmas!
I'm in the middle of uploading lots of photos to our web albums and am trying to sift through the mounds of pics and put the 'interesting' ones into an album 'highlights of bus-about trip' in case anyone is bored and feels like seeing what we have been up to!

Apart from that here's a pic of me on St Andrews Day and one of Niki taken last weekend when we did a spot of "mountain" climbing with Debra Fish... Niki slipped on his butt 3 times! haha! (Not so funny when I fall over of course)
Had a temp assignment as a receptionist for mortgage brokers for Thurs 27th and Fri 28th Dec which I was stoked about as I didn't think I'd get any work over Christmas. So I got up at 7.30am this morning and went to work, only to discover that the guy had been given the wrong key and anyone with the correct key was on holiday! So I got sent home and he was going to work from another branch! Bit poos, but my agency said I'll get paid for today at least as it wasn't my fault, so I guess that's pretty cool! And I guess I'll get a phone call if they need me tomorrow after all.

Wishing everyone a very HAPPY NEW YEAR! Party Hard =) We will be at the Hogmanay Street Party! (well, I will be, Niki has to work! Typical! but it sounds like he'll have fun there anyway) xo


Some not very nice people have used our debit card details to purchase items online!! www (wtf?) and some bus travel by the looks…£170 in total. GRRRR! We have had to cancel our cards and report it to the fraud department. The money should be refunded within the week and new cards issued, so it's more just a big inconvenience and rather upsetting (In true Hayley style I burst into tears when I found out!).

Scottish Happenings

Finally getting around to blog about what we have been up to for the past 6 weeks! As you know we are now based in Edinburgh and plan to stay here until mid-to-late February at this stage. Niki is working in a bar and I am doing temp secretarial work. It took a few weeks for me to get a job but I've now had work for the last 3.5 weeks. The next 2 weeks I'll probably be off again though because of Christmas and New Years holidays.

Meanwhile we have a great flat which is within walking distance of town (35mins) so we save £2 each a day on bus fares! Scrimping and saving as we do not earn nearly as much as we did in London. We are still glad we came here though, everyone is a lot friendlier, the city centre is lovely and at the moment they have the Winter Wonderland up and running which is gorgeous! Ferry lights, Christmas markets, ferris wheel, outdoor ice skating rink etc etc. It's neat to see bagpipers busking and the Scottish accent is great!

I can't remember everything we've done so far but in brief: Julie (from my old work) came to visit which was great, we went on a walking tour, attended a ceilidh (pronounced "kay lee") a Scottish dance night - loads of fun, but very tiring! and met her couch host and couchsurfing contacts, which was invaluable as I've since joined up and been along to a few things the Edinburgh Group has organised, including the St Andrews Day Celebrations, movie night at the Brass Monkey (pub), fortnightly pub catch-up and a night out partying for a leaving party! Excellent way to meet people.

Today, Debra Fish (a friend from school) arrives from NZ for a week or so before moving to Dublin! I'm sooo excited =)

Hope everyone's organised with Christmas shopping etc etc!

Paris Pics

Arc de Triomphe

Basilique du Sacre Coeur

Eiffel Tower


Eating snails!!!

Notre Dame

Musee du Louvre

Busabout Trip - Paris: the City of Love

Paris was amazing... it definitely lives up to the hype.

The last bus of the Busabout season took us from Stuttgart to Paris, an 8 hour trip...which ended up being 10 hours because of course Murphys Law came out to play and we had troubles all day, including a minor collision!

Niki had found us double room in hotel for €40 per night, which is amazingly cheap for Paris. When I heard that I was expecting crappy 1 star, cockroach infested room. We later discovered the reason it was soo cheap was that it was way out of the city (Epinay Sur Seine), he had read the ad wrong...boys!! But it actually worked out very well, it was a lovely 3 star basic hotel and we simply had to catch a train into the city which took 30mins and didn't cost much.

We had heard stories of the Parisians being unfriendly and not willing to speak english. We didn't encounter that at all so don't let that worry u. Niki knows a bit of french and as long as you're polite and try to use a bit of french: bonjour, sil vous plait, merci etc, people are generally happy to help.
We have 5 days in Paris and did all the touristy things and none of them were a disappointment.
Sacre Coeur - big amazing white church on top of a hill with briliant views of the city. In front of it is a large staired area which is a very popular place for people to hang out at night, bottle of wine in hand with random musicians and street performers keeping you entertained.
Arc de Triomphe -crazy round-a-bout, didn't see any accidents though. The actual structure in the middle of the roundabout is impressive. So massive! We didn't go up it (you had to pay!) but had a good wander around it while watching traffic.
Notre Dame - beautiful gothic church, didn't necessarily stand out over other churches we've seen in Europe though. free entry was a bonus! We were there on the national Saints day so got to see a bit of a service, incl choir and all that which made the whole exprience a bit more authentic. No sightings of the hunchback.
Louvre - This museum is HUGE. We only stayed for 2.5 hours, but seriously you could stay all day and still not have seen everything. I'm not hugely into art so got bored quickly, did see the infamous Mona Lisa - she's tiny! and surrounded by tourists flashing cameras, it's cordened off at least so u get a peek. The thing that stood out to me was the Egyptian section where there were animal mummies and even a human mummie on display. The weirdest, grossest thing really, but so interesting! As far as museums go, this one is a must see.
Eiffel Tower - WOW... this is incredible, and very reasonably priced. Queues can be massive even though there are 4 queues (one by each 'leg'). We took the walking option which you do for 2 levels with the option to then pay a bit more to get an elevator to the top. It was soooooooo unbelievably high & extremely windy = very scarey! Niki loved it of course but I didn't stay out on the top viewing patform too long! We went up at 4.45pm so got to see the city by day and night. Absolutely stunning views! The tower also sparkles at night for 10mins once every hour which looks beautiful in the distance. During the day however I think it's a bit ugly looking.
Fat Tyres Bike Tour - Decided to get back on a bike once again, this time for a night tour which we'd heard rave reviews of. Was dreading crazy traffic but it was actually ok and there is a bus/bike lane. We saw some cool stuff and everything looks different by night, but unfortunately our camera doesn't take very good night pics. Went on an hour boat cruise (included in tour) where they cranked out a few bottles of wine as well. Was nice, but very cold!
Disneyland - the best day of my life! haha well not quite but thats how a child described it to us, and mate it comes close. It's such a great place, we had so much fun. We got a 2 park pass - Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios (€56ea). We started at Studios and were there from 11-4.30 and then went over to Disneyland, which was def the better of the 2. We were worried we'd made the wrong decision as the park was packed and we had only been on 2 rides in the first few hours but luckily after our overpriced dinner (8.30pm) we managed to go on 3 popular rides before closing time (10pm)...these rides had earlier had 120min waiting times! The rides are indescribeable, high thrills, amazing detail and themes...
The only reget from the day is that we missed the parade, I was so gutted...and if I went again I would skip some of the 'show' type things we saw, the stunt show wasn't as good as Dreamworld.
A pricey day but all in all a superb experience, we were falling asleep on the train ride home...worn out wee angels =)

Au Revoir xo

Busabout Czech Republic

Here's a few more pics, having trouble uploading more so I'll move on to the next post instead...I bet you're all very excited!

Busabout Trip - Part 3 (Munich)

Munich was our next stop and the only other place we were to stay for 5 nights. Which again was a good decision as we had a great time, there was so much different stuff to see. Oktoberfest was all over by this time but we went up to see the grounds and there were alot of tents still standing...apparently it takes like 6 months to get everything ready and then 2 or 3 to pull it all down. Alot of people on busabout had started their trip at Oktoberfest so we heard a lot of stories and are keen to go next year (well, Niki is =). We stayed in quite a nice hostel, actually all the hostels were great especially compared to the ones we encountered on our June Italy trip. Usually 6 bed mixed dorms with ensuite toilet/shower, lockers, bedlight etc bars, internet, tours, laundry etc etc all the good stuff!

We went to Dachau concentration camp which was heartbreaking, awful, freezing, eye-opening and educational. I'm really glad we went but what an awful thing to see, especially the gas cahmbers (even though these particular ones were never used) and the big incinerator. There was a lot of information and pictures of prisoners and piles of skinny bodies, we heared about the experiences of survivors on the audiguide. We went with quite a big group so the mood remained light on the way home otherwise it's quite a lot to take in emotionally for 1 day!

The next day we took the hostels free (for tips!) walking tour which was pretty good, you learn/see so much that you wouldn't see if you just wandered around yourself. That night 6 of us went to the famous Hofbrau Haus for dinner. Niki had a pork knuckle and I had meat loaf and an appel strudel, and again had a radler which was extremely drinkable...they're just sooo huge you can only handle one. They had an Oompha band playing which really added to the atmosphere. These beer halls are massive and busy. You also notice heaps of men wearing the traditional lederhausen (leather pants thingee) for real and they're there for club meetings!

The next day we headed out to the 'Disney' castle in the Bavarian alps, approx 30mins on the train. Neuschwanstein is the castle that the original Disney castle was based on. There's also another castle on the hill next to it called Hohenschwangau caslte. These were used by King Ludwig II who died over 100 years ago and since then it's been a major tourist attraction. We didn't pay to go into them but you can get inside the castle walls and take some cool pictures, also the surrounding mountains are awesome. Felt like I was in a fairytale! tehe

On our last day in Munich we just laxed about and did important stuff like buying Niki an authentic stein to send home, writing a few postcards, and purhasing a warm jacket for me. Niki went to the Deutsch museum for a couple of hours too...meant to be pretty impressive.

Next we went to Stuttgart (also in Germany) basically famous as it's the home of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche so we looked around both those museums (thrills!) and just explored the city a bit. Only had 2 nights there which was all we needed...a bit of relaxing before PARIS!!

Busabout - Part 2

on 13 Oct we travelled to Prague in the Czech Republic where we stayed for 3 nights. It's amazing there... You all have to go! we stayed at a great brand new hostel who happened to be putting on a party that night with drink specials and free nibbley food for dinner. We did a bike tour the next day, turned out we were with 7 other busabouters so it was a really good time and after that we went out for dinner together. The food is soo much cheaper in Czech then other European countries. So we could all afford to have a steak! Although in saying that sushi was super expensive! strange...

We went to the Prague castle and decided to get the whole shi-bang (audio guide etc) which was a mistake as we were bored in an hour and it had cost us alot! Even though it was massive and lovely I think we were both just a little 'over' doing the church/museum sightseeing thing.

After Prague we went to Cesky Krumlov for 2 nights which is a tiny wee town also in the Czech Republic. It was soo neat there, we had gorgeous weather...were wearing singlets and board shorts for the first time in ages! A few days after we left Cesky we bumped into people in Austria that had been in Cesky a day after us and they had photos of the town covered in snow! crazy. We basically just did a lot of relaxing, a little bit of exploring and lots of eating out at the restaurant near the hostel...salmon, lamb, steak - amazing meals ... soo cheap! We went to a cocktail bar with the plan to have absinthe but they didn't serve it! The next night some of the girls braved a couple of shots but I decided against it! Apparently the hallucinagate (how do u spell that!) is illegal now so it's just the same stuff u can get at green fairies!

Next stop was Vienna in Austria for 3 nights. On our first night there we went out to a local restaurant who happened to have a traditional band playing which was a bonus and of course I had a weiner schnitzel! (All I seem to write about is food!) In Austria they speak German which is handy as I had learnt some basic phrases in Berlin. danke (thank you), bitte (please), aufwedersein (goodbye) you should know that one from the Sound of Music! It was sooo cold in Vienna, took the enjoyment out of seeing the sights really. We sat on a tram that did the city loop and saw some stuff that way. Went to a butterfly house which was gorgeous...and as a bonus had tropical temperatures! Saw a few churches and a palace, had dodgy chinese and hung around at the hostel pub... and that was it really. Nothing to rave about in my opinion.

Next we went to Salzburg and on the way there it was snowing!!!! So gorgeous and what made it extra special was that there were a bunch of people with us on the bus that had never seen snow before. Unfortunately it stopped soon after we arrived and after that was just yuck sludgey stuff. Still looked pretty on rooftops though. We had planned to go on an ice caves tour but due to snow they had closed earlier this year...gutted! A few keen beans went on the Sound of Music tour and had a lot of laughs apparently the guides really get into it and you all sing along...not really Niki's scene perhaps! it was quite expensive anyway so gave it a miss.

One the second day we met up with Brad & Christy and Mandy & Az (two other couples on busabout that we got to know) and headed up to the fort/museum... after a couple of hours of exploring, a few random snow fights and the creation of a mini snowman the consensus was to head down to the beer hall. We were there from 3.30-8.30pm ... Niki was in his element downing a stein every hour. I tried a radler (half beer, half lemonade) which was ok...but I think I'll stick to vodka. We had some traditional food too giant pretzels, wurst etc.

Busabout - Pics

mm my fav dutch greasys
Hilary & Niki: munchies after a visit to the coffee shop
funny "green man" - the only plce in the world apparently!

Berlin pub crawl!
Berlin wall

snazzy shoes!

Busabout Trip - Part 1

Sunday 30 Sept we hopped on a bus from London to Paris... we weren't looking forward to the long, uncomfortable trip but it didn't end up being too bad as we got on the ferry at Dover so made things a little more interesting and we obviously got to wander around etc. We stayed one night in Paris and the next morning met up with the Busabout bus which was to be our second home for the next 4-5 weeks.

First stop was Bruges, Belgium. We stayed for 2 nights. Not a lot to see really but we did the touristy stuff like visiting churches, towers, chocolate museum, brewery and did a wee canal cruise, it's quite a pretty town with bridges, canals, old buildings and windmills. (It's in the flemish part of Belgium which is a lot like The Netherlands). Basically the Belgians are famous for their food, so of course we tried it all: waffles, chocolate, hot chips with mayonaise and a large variety of beers. Our small hostel bar alone stocked 20 different varieties! I even found a cherry one which was quite tasty.

After Bruges we headed to Amsterdam. We had decided to stay 5 nights there as we had a certain amount of nights in total we could use for our trip so that we could catch the last Busabout bus back to Paris on 30 October. Turns out it was a great decision as we LOVED it there... what kind of people does that make us (red light district and coffee shops!) haha no we of course saw all of that which was eye opening to say the least but there was so much more to Amsterdam than that. As many of you know I had been to Amsterdam before as a child (didn't go to the red light back then though! good parenting skills Mum!), so it was pretty cool for me to be back in The Netherlands to try my dutch language skills!! I'm not fluent anymore but a lot of words came back to me in that short time...not that I needed it at all, nearly everyone speaks english and we came across so many friendly people. Loved it!

We went to the Anne Frank House, which was so amazing and heartbreaking. It was a place I still remember quite vividly visiting as a child. We did the Heineken Brewery Experience (who would've guessed... I am travelling with Niki!). We did a Bike Tour which was one of our highlights of the whole trip, the american guy that took it was so good. We went out to a clog and cheese factory and saw lots of the city. I would fully recommed that to anyone (Mike's Bike Tours). For the benefit of my family I will document all the yummy stuff we ate there...I'm sure it will ring some bells! frikendel, croketten, frites met mayonaise, stroop waffels...etc etc. unfortunately didn't have any poffertjes (although u can buy them in Sydney ay Pam!).

Next stop was Berlin where we stayed for 3 nights. Berlin was also amazing... be in my top 3 places of this trip for sure. Went on a 'free' walking tour (New Europe Tours operate in a few major cities in Eu) these are awesome, they work on a tips-only basis, as well as doing other specialsed tours which you pay a set price for. The girl we had was Australian and she was so passionate and knowledgeable about Berlin and a really good speaker. Looking back we should've tipped her more compared to some other walking tours!!! anyway! We saw alot of WWII stuff: the Memorial to the Murdered Jews, Charlie's Checkpoint, site of Hitler's bunker, Typography of Terror, Reichstag (we went up at 10.30pm and had amazing views of city), Brandenberg Gate (complete with WWII patched up bullet holes) and more. We also saw and learnt about the Berlin Wall which was so eye opening. I really didn't know much about it and for that type of thing to be happening in my lifetime is just unbelievable.

It wasn't all serious doom and gloom though! We went out on a pub crawl which was a lot of fun, was a good chance to get chatting to a few fellow busabouters as we hadn't really met many before that as you don't really see people apart from on the bus at some places. It was a classy pub crawl...pouring jagermeister down your throats in between pubs down an alleyway! nice! I didn't drink much at all as still fresh in my mind was my 'Hayley Special' all day hangover after our London farewell party...which I haven't blogged about separately...was a great night, let's leave it at that!!

Dreasden, Germany was the next stop... where? yeah we didn't know either but it was a place the bus went and we had decided to stop off everywhere as we had the time! only 2 other girls got off with us there. We ended up having such a fun time though, saw the town with all it's glorious historic buildings, museums, palace, churches (blah blah i'm soo over it!) in an afternoon and the next day hopped on a train for an hour to the Saxon Switzerland (named that as it looks like Switzerland landscape) with Claire and Ed (bus girls). Was gorgeous although a bit over cast, we did a bit of a 'tramp' even... haha whatever there was a path the whole way! Awesome views. Was cool to meet and spend time with 'the girls' (as i so fondly call them since they are only 18 & 19! cute!) we became good friends for the rest of the trip.

Anyway will post this now and hopefully add some pics that go with this soon... We are in Edinburgh at the mo, unemployed at present! But Niki just got a job in a bar after doing a trial today (YAY) so he can bring in the moolah! Have an agency interview Monday and registered with another last week so I'm sure it'll be sweet (cos I rock!). Pay is less here (apparently accom is too though)... but it sounds like lots of fun so I think it'll be great. Have met quite a few people in the hostels who have lived in London and much prefer Scotland. Already noticed everyone is WAY friendlier here! We'll just have to do another working stint at London at some stage to save some pingers to take home perhaps...

Alive and kicking

Hi all just a quick note to say we are alive and well!! I have not had time to blog since we started our wee Europe trip so in case anyone was missing my blogs... this is a lil one to tide u over!!! At this moment in time we are in Vienna and tomorrow morning at 8am we leave for Salzburg! we just had drinks in the hostel bar with fellow busabouters whilst watchignthe rugby world cup final...we were not going to watch it, cos WHO CARES! but anyway we did...and now Niki is back in his depressive state. The aussies are already giving us shit for 2011 when the All Blacks will choke again times! nah they are all great peeps. there is a 100 to 1 ratio of Aussies to NZrs everywhere!

Anyway we are having the bestest time, have met some great people and are basically loving the lifestyle! It will be awful when we have to return to the real world and get jobs! at this stage we are still palnning on going to Scotland...prob around the 5th of Nov. It is cold as already though and we have not even come across snow yet...although apparently tomorrow in Salzburg we will! brrrrrr. who knows how i will handle cold Scotland! After Salzburg we go to Munich for 5 nights, then Stuttgart for 2, then Paris... Hopefully we will sort a plan and some flights in our spare time in Munich.

I will blog when we get settled and post some pics...we have a million! just remember I am doing this as a type of online diary as well so do not feel u have to read it all!!!

better go put Niki in the recovery position...

xo to everyone we miss u all!!!!!!!

Madame Tussauds & other fun stuff

Gina and Ben arrived from NZ on Thursday morning! It was awesome to see some familar faces and we went to the pub to watch rugby and have a couple of drinks Friday night. They were only in London for the weekend as they are actually going to be working in the Isle of Wight. Saturday afternoon we caught up for a picnic in Hyde Park and then went to Footloose at the theatre. It was pretty cool. We hadn't planned to see it but I had found tickets for only £10 each that morning so I though it would be a cool treat for Gina. Sunday we went to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum..don't pay full price! book online 24 hours before and pay only £10 by not going until 4.30ish...still leaving us with plenty of time to see it all. I was pretty impressed with the mueseum, it was loads of fun and we took a trillion fave ones are below - to see more see our album. After the Museum we headed into the centre a bit more as the Thames Festival was on. There was an amazing parade, soo many fantastic costumes that must've taken hours to make....we grabbed some dinner and waited for the sky to darken and then the firweorks display went on for a good 10 minutes and was absolutely incredible.

Cutest Baby in the whole wide world...

Brrrrrrrrrrrr it’s cold in here

Wednesday night we had a date at the Absolut Ice Bar. Sheree and Marty are moving to Ireland this weekend so was a good excuse to catch-up and spend our money on over priced cocktails! I had been raving about the Ice Bar as I had been to one in Sydney about 2 years ago when I was staying with Pam, and had absolutely loved it. Unfortunately the London one just didn’t live up to my expectations, nor anyone elses cos I’d been talking it up.

The Sydney Bar had a lot of awesome ice sculptures, great atmosphere and a warm outfit, including ugg-boots. The London one was a bit more budget, and we just got a throw-over poncho thing & gloves. It cost £12 incl a drink which since we are all working over here is pretty good price…but I wouldn’t recommend it to any tourist. Anyway we still had a nice time, you’re only in there for 40mins as it’s too cold, so we took a dozen pics and enjoyed our cocktails, drunk out of glasses made of ice, and then ran out of there quickly as our fingers were about to fall off from the cold! After that we wandered down the street and found a bar to have another drink in. Lee-Ann and I splashed out on a jug of a cocktail =) soo yum. We were feeling a little bit peckish and Sheree had ordered some nacho chips & dips so we decided to get wedges…see photo… yes there are 5 wedges in total! Enough for one each!

Long Weekend Away 6-9 Sept

Thursday we finished work early and headed out to Stansted airport to catch a plane to Newquay, which is a beachy town in Cornwall. Only took us an hour to fly but those catching the coach or train had to deal with 6 hours of travel. Newquay is gorgeous, you could compare it to the Mount or Whangamata, mainly because of the massive increase in population in summer and basically every shop is either a surf shop, souvenir shop or a restaurant/bar.

We had a group of 6, Niki & I, two of our flatmates Hilary & Nick and his mate Roz, and Tarns (cousin of the Riddingtons). We had found the trip in the TNT Magazine, which is a publication put out for free aimed at Aussies, Kiwis & Saffas. There were 180 people there with the TNT group, and they'd planned a surfing comp (which got cancelled cos no waves!) and had beach volleyball, a DJ etc set up on the beach. We had fully equipped 3-bedroom caravan, with kitchen, lounge and bathroom. They ran a coach from the holiday park down to the beach and back again and then down to the clubs and back at night.

We had a great time, Friday was especially awesome weather. Niki, Nick & Hilary even braved a swim in the ocean on Saturday. I escaped hangovers the whole weekend... YAY! Must be getting more sesnsible in my old age! Saturday night was a bit special cos the others had secretly bought me a birthday cake! aww so in the middle of "circle of death" (drinking game) out Roz came with my cake (even had candles!) .

Sunday we left at 4pm and took the train home...not the best way to spend a birthday but the weekend had been awesome so no worries!

Thanks to everyone for all the birthday cards, texts, gifts, e-mails etc. I truly appreciate everyone's thoughts and felt very special and loved...I should go away more often huh! =)