A Travellerspoint blog

Christmas in Winters Garden

Its chilly!

overcast 5 °C

Merriest and Happiest of Christmases and New Years to you all!

Here in Jolly England its chilly and rather damp. The early winter promise of snow has not yet materialised but to be honest if you live south of the highlands you can't expect too much!

Cambridge's threatened christmas lights are safely up and glowing like little balls of warmth against the winter chill and all the bungalows in our village are currently holding a christmas decoration competition that Tim "the Toolman" Taylor would be proud of. When you consider that bungalows in England are typically the residence of retired folk who can no longer manage stairs you will see a whole new facet for humour in this comment!

The pressies are wrapped, the chockies have all been bought, the parties are almost all over - Christmas is nearly here! The primary differences between NZ and UK have been discussed ad nuseum with a dozen different people who are fascinated by the concept of cold meat and salad on Christmas day (and when you mention the water fights their eyes positively bug out!), and everyone is negotiating with everyone else about who will stay and work through the week between boxing day and new years!

Christmas was a smart move by the catholic church. Deciding to take over the pagan winter solstice festival was a display of immense wisdom. I say this because if they had not allowed people in the northern hemisphere to celebrate at the heart of this most dark and gloomy time they wouldn't have had followers for long. As it is Cambridge town centre with its cute lights flashing and glowing from 3pm everyday and brightening everybodies previously gloomy spirits.

I am hopeful of snow on Christmas day. I missed it last year because I was celebrating kiwi-style (in the sun) but this year we are heading north and north is where the snow is (I hope!)

So joyeux noel from me to you. Happy Winter or Sunny Summer depending on where you are. Best Wishes and if I son't see you before New Years - have a good one!
C. (Travelling Mc)

Posted by TravelMc 01:48 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

France

Many visits, many tales.

sunny 5 °C

France... What to say about France. Without being trite.
My first trip to France was way back in 2002 when I visited Paris with a good friend who'd been before and was eager to show me as much as possible and to experience all that the city had to offer the meagre tourist with her undefined explorers taste.

While I was the meagre party - Paris was not in anyway. We visited absolutely everything - The Louvre, Notre Dame, Sacre Coure (sp? apologies for any glaring spelling mistakes), The Eiffel Tower, Arc d'Triumphe, the Latin Quater, the Moulin Rouge and on and on. We rollerbladed, tasted and sampled and trekked all over just having a ball. On my second visit to the city only Napoleans tomb was new to me thats how much ground we covered that first visit.

After Paris I visited Strasbourg (which is a border city and has been both german and french many times in its history but I believe for now it rests on officially french soil). A disappointing city that really only offers moderately good shopping (a fantastic array of warm winter jackets at excellent prices if you go at the right time of year) and a fascinating ancient quarter and some impressive architecture. The rest of the city is not worth the money you'd spend on getting there. (Oh - the trams are quite neat but only because its supposed to be some sort of European hub City so I discount them as merely for show.) Basically the weather was cold and so were the people. They all speak Dutch German and French - until a foreigner asks them a question in one of those languages and suddenly they don't understand you... I don't wish to start a one woman campaign against Strasbourg but I will not be recommending it any time soon.

I have also had the delight to visit Beane (Pncd 'Bone'), Avignon (gorgeous!) the Beaujolias wine region, The Bordeaux wine region, Cannes, Cann, Oistreham (by default of this being the harbour our ferry landed at), Nice, Fontainebleau, the French Riviera (in particular Biot where we stayed), Calais of course (see comment for Oistreham), Nimes, Le Grande Mott, Sete, Montpellier... the list just gets longer.

I can highly recommend the south of France. The sun shines, there are beautiful beaches and people and the food is to die for. The closer to Catalonia you get the more you begin to feel like you are in Barcelona and as you head in the opposite direction you can really feel the glitz and glamour of Monacco filtering down along the coast. I can honestly say I think of heavenly blue skies, hot days and basking on the beach when I think of the south of France.

What I have noticed:
- the food is almost always good. Without a doubt the subtlty and variety of the flavours will always catch you off guard.
- People watching is a valid tourist past time. Anywhere. At any time of day. Even watching other tourists is valid.
- The further north you go the more you need to make an effort to speak french.
- Lace is the local speciality of far too many places in France.
- Eating every new food you come across will make you fat in a few days in France. In fact anywhere in Europe. Pace yourself. Even if you have eaten a local version of a french meal where you come from you have not really tried it until you eat it in France. And that immediately leads to sampling everything - whether you are hungry or not. It takes a huge amount of will power at first to just say no. And to realise that you can always try it another time. As I said Pace yourself.
- France has a better range of souvenirs than most other european countries (well - the ones I have visited anyway). Buy souvenirs in France. That said Italy does a whole different range - but that is for another blog!

I hope that proves useful to you one day. Visit France.

Posted by TravelMc 07:35 Archived in France Comments (0)

Cambridge

As winter rolls in...

all seasons in one day

All this time overseas and I rarely speak of what has so easily become home. Cambridge is a fabulous little city. The English believe it shouldn't be called a city due to its lack of a cathedral (a vital box you used to have to tick if you were to call your town a city) but we wont pause for too long on that thought.

Cambridge - for those of you not familiar with the area - is situated pretty much in the heart of East Anglia in its own county (Cambridgehire). We are a 45 minute train ride north of London and only 30 minutes from Stansted airport which gives me all the benefits of easy to reach hustle n bustle as well as a great international transport network. What more can a girl ask for?

The city is situated on the river Cam (hence the name) and is most well-known for its University and its Boat Race (and indirectly the friendly competitiveness with 'rival' university city Oxford). Rowing is a local pasttime and a great way to get a completely different view of the area. However if you only visit for a short time most people would recommend hiring a punt and seeing the sights that way. I would recommend this to you with 2 additions: Champagne and Strawberries. Or Pimms and lemonade if you prefer!

Cambridge is also 'The City of Cycles'. Popular myth has it that almost everyone in Cambridge owns a stolen bike - not that they necessarily stole it themselves, more likely they bought it from a mate who got it cheap from a bloke 'with connections' - but considering the number of bikes that get nicked every week I'm going to guess that there is some truth to the tale. Because East Anglia is 'Fen land' its almost completely flat which means that biking everywhere is fairly fuss free and with most of the centre of the city being pedestrian-only riding a bike is much more convenient than having a car.

There are 4 main commons: Jesus Green, Parkers Piece, Midsummer Common and the Mill. Each has its popluar uses and summer is definitely the time to make the most of them. Midsummer common hosts the strawberry fair and countless amusement fairs and a circus or two each year; Jesus green is where students and locals alike go to play football and tennis and skate and muck about; Parkers Piece plays host to pretty much anything slightly more high brow than would feature on Midsummer common as well as being the playing fields for Parkside School (and great for snow fights in winter); and The Mill is a great drinking space. In the middle of summer its either strewn with comatose bodies or plastic cups and disposable BBQ's. Its also a good space to watch novice punters fall off their punts (my 'tip of the week').

There are many good eateries including a LOAD of pizza places and wine bars. There are 3 cinemas as well as a bowling alley and various pool halls if you like that kind of thing. The local nightclubs are good fun after a drink or two and the whole area is absolutely stuffed with fantastic pubs in which to enjoy a Sunday lunch or a romantic meal any time you fancy.

The architecture of the city never fails to please me. Due to several big building projects there has been a lot of archaeological digs going on which I've taken the opportunity to poke my nose into whenever I can. If you like churches then Great St Marys is worth a stop - go up the tower for a brilliant view of the city. The colleges of the university are brilliant. There is so much more to them than impressive walls and court yards - being invited to dine at any of them is well worth the experience. The May Balls (held in June) are brilliant and the tickets always go quickly despite being priced up to £500 and I can say that they are more than worth the money.

If you come during winter - especially around halloween - you can do Ghost Walks and scare yourself silly (if you like that kind of thing). Or else you can enjoy the splendour of this centuries old town in the heat of summer idly wandering from bar to bar, cafe to cafe, common to common (via the market square) and just soak it all up as you go.

So now I've done this advertisement, you should come and visit.

Posted by TravelMc 06:24 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Grrrr

I'm a biker now!

all seasons in one day 15 °C

Ola!

Its Friday and a lot has been happening lately.
The sad news: Our beautiful Charlie Dog has moved on to heavenly pastures new. We miss him lots but know it was for the best.

The bad news: My fast faffless and fearless rowing four failed to overcome at our first race. However we are cheering ourselves up with the thought that it may well be the last race we ever lose!

The glad news: I passed my bike test. I am now licenced to ride any motorbike I fancy leaping on! Provided I have the correct protective clothing and insurance that is! :-)

We are now in countdown mode for our brief trip home to NZ. We are not making lots of plans because this could well be our only holiday this year and I want to do vegetable impressions (lots of sitting around!) for a bit of it but so far we are aiming to go to the hot pools (a must do - if you have never been to one then next time your in Sweden or NZ get yourself along to the hotpools!), Anton wants to go diving (I suspect I will have to do that with him), I am seeing an old friend for her hens weekend and we are celebrating my grandparents 25 years of marriage! Oh and of course we will be spending time with Little Miss Emma - my niece.
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Other than that things here in Cambridge are cooling down. The weather has become autumnal (though the sun is currently shining) and the evenings are drawing in. Already we are dreaming of next summer (well - of christmas too but I have too say we are also looking further ahead at the same time!).

Roll on October...

Posted by TravelMc 07:49 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

I've gone & done it!

Oh yes I have!

semi-overcast 20 °C

I passed my motorcycle theory test this morning!
Me n me funped_1.JPG
Watch out England! Watch out Europe! Watch out world.... Well - I still have to pass (or at least book) my practical lessons and test but thats just details.

For someone who's been on the road for 12 years you would not believe how stressful it was sitting there doing the test. First theres 35 multi-choice questions (of which I got 35 right - gloat gloat!) then they make you do a 'hazard perception test'. They show you 14 clips and you have to click the mouse when you see a potential hazard, then click again as you see it develop. Sounds easy? Riiiiiiiiiiight!

(I preferred it when they gave you a scratch card and then asked you 5 oral questions!)

I have just opened up a whole range of potential jobs for myself - filthy few member, Mongrel Mobette, motorbike courier, daredevil... the list just goes on. I can tell my mums going to be really pleased about this! (Sorry mum!)

The adventures just keep coming!

Posted by TravelMc 04:22 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged transportation Comments (0)

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