Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Big waves, beasts and beaches...

We have been in Indonesia for almost 2 weeks now - the time has flown by! We started in Yogyakarta, Java which is a sprawling, dirty city but the starting point for temple viewing. We visited Borobudur - a Buddhist temple from around 10th century which sits on a hill amidst paddy fields and volcanoes. It was gorgeous in the morning sun, though it was here we discovered the strange fascination Indonesian people have for Western travellers. Group after group asked to take their photo with us to our amusement and eventual annoyance; we've since discovered it is seen as a sign of intelligence to be able to speak English so the photo proves that they have conversed with Westerners. Not as Andy thought, that they had mistaken him for Brad Pitt. We also visited Prambanan, a collective of Hindu temples. Here I decided we should get a bit of culture and watch the famous Ramayana Ballet, because in a setting this dramatic, how could it be bad? Well, interpretive dance of a story we didn't know and couldn't really understand from the "dancing" on display, and a man behind us who clearly knew the story as he spent most of the performance talking loudly on his mobile phone was how bad .....Andy has now banned me from choosing our entertainment in Indonesia....

One of our favourite moments in Yogyakarta was when we went into a mall and tried to buy an Apple charger. Language was most definitely a barrier though we managed to get our point across though pointing and mime, only to be presented with a charger that cost the equivalent of one months' rent! Tourist tax, I think it's called....we declined. Hilariously, when we got back to our hotel Andy had a look at our charger (which I swore blind wouldn't fit the Indonesian plug socket) and made it work in seconds.....

After a couple of days in Yogjakarta we got on bus bound for Bali, glad to leaving the city, even if it meant a 18 hour bus ride. We passed through Bali, stopping only at Padang Bai, a nice harbour village for the night, and then we continued onto Gili Air.

Gili Air is one of three islands north of Bali, and close to Lombok. There was a lot more there than we expected; restaurants lined the beach and it was hard to find a quiet spot; it is basically a gorgeous Western styled holiday island. Andy snorkelled and I did yoga, which was great (yes, there was a studio on the island!), and we enjoyed the eating and drinking, but still we were looking for our perfect, isolated beach so we decided to keep moving, and head to Flores.

This tied in nicely with a cheap (and therefore basic) Komodo Dragon boat trip we'd read about - 4 nights on a boat - snorkelling, swimming, seeing wildlife galore (flying foxes, dolphins, turtles, manta rays to name but a few), 2 days of trekking in the Komodo National Park and seeing dragons before ending up in Labuan Bajo, Flores.The first afternoon on the boat was fun; getting to know our travelling group over a Bitang or two. It soon became apparent however that the itinerary was very liable to change depending on whatever Vic, our guide, decided was best. To be fair, we did do an awful lot of snorkelling, but not a lot of wildlife viewing or trekking. We also spent a lot of time on the small boat feeling waves smash against it, as we attempted to sleep, but hey, I guess we have our sea legs now!

It was a great experience in the end with a fantastic group of people, and we did get to see dragons on the final day; they looked fierce! It ended in Labuanbajo, Flores on the roof of the boat watching thousands of Indonesians on the harbour stream onto a local "ferry" (the size of the Titanic!) and a couple of Bitangs to celebrate surviving 4 nights at sea!

We spent our next 2 nights on a gorgeous island, Seraya, off the coast of Flores and although the staff were incompetent (and all under 16; they kept the ledger in a Hello Kitty notebook!!) it is still the most beautiful, relaxing place we have been so far.

And now, back in Labuanbajo we are planning our next travels, through this space.

Friday, 29 June 2012

A month of friends, family and more than a few drops of rain....

Sorry for the delay in updating - that was hell of a month! After a busy and fun old time in New York, we got into England (via Frankfurt - god bless cheap flights eh?) at the end of May. We really appreciated the Harrison / Travers welcoming committee at Heathrow!

Andy headed North to Doncaster to see his mum, and I went back to Chippenham, Wiltshire with my mum, dad and brother, Al. Now as a Northerner this gives me little pleasure to say, but Wiltshire and the surrounding area is simply beautiful! The first few days I spent exploring with the family, and getting to know my nephew, Daniel, and it was wonderful!

I headed to London next for a few days with Catherine in Clapham, then Karen, Holly and Beckie, exploring the South Bank and the Moomin store in Covent Garden.... It was good to see London as a tourist, rather than an harassed retail manager on the 8am tube to Canary Wharf - everything seemed historic and the sun (mostly) shone.

I headed up to Doncaster next, to meet up with Andy and his mum. We had a few days here catching up with family and even found time to watch John Simm in a Pinter play in Sheffield.

That weekend I drove up to Crathorne, North Yorks to meet up with my college friends Sarah, Vicki and Catherine. We enjoyed a thoroughly British Village fete (i.e it was cold and wet) in honour of the Jubilee but it was a cracking day regardless. After a brief stop in Boro to take photos of the Transporter bridge and visit aunty Jean I headed back to Donny.

The next day was the start of our 10 day road trip. And of course the rain (which only disappeared on our final weekend in England!) Andy drove and I was navigator, which was necessary as I had broken our Tom-tom within 30 minutes of being in the car. We went first to Newbury to celebrate my sister's Suzy's birthday over a pub lunch. Then onto Stroud to visit Andy's brother Colin and his family. They live in a gorgeous part of England and were wonderful hosts. Special mention to nieces Olivia and Hannah, who we very much enjoyed searching for chickens online with!

The next stop was Bristol and the herd of Hirds. It was fantastic to spend time with Jen, Mark, Euan & Callum again, and to finally meet Lauren and Noah. We would like it on record we had nothing to do with Noah breaking his arm, but were glad to be there when it did happen to help Jen out. Hope you get better soon Noah!

Next up was Bernie & Rob Lanaway and their gorgeous daughter Abigail. We had our first British curry of the trip (though not the last!) and a really fun evening together. The next day we all headed over to Ticknall, on the Derbyshire / Leicestershire border and to the National Trust property we'd rented for the weekend to spend time with the Lanaways, the Greens and the Worleys. It was a fantastic weekend of Shithead, poker, Fifa and football and general catching up. Oh and some of the best home cooked meals ever! And...perhaps a bit of alcohol too :)

It was sad to say goodbye to all on Sunday, but we were staying with Flo, Beaks and Annabelle Worley that night in Leamington Spa, we got to spend more quality time colouring in and playing jigsaws, and that was just with Beaks.......The next day we drove down to Eastleigh in Southampton to spend a night with Matt & Lucy Green, watching the England match and eating curry - brilliant!

Our final night of the road trip was spent with Andy's brother Stu and his lovely fiancé Lou in Winchester. It's another gorgeous place in England we had never been to before, and we had a great evening with them. Finally, we drove the long way home to Doncaster, and went out for a nice meal with Tom & Sheila Hird and mum.

The next day we drove to Nottingham to get the third of our rabies jabs, and then popped over to see Jane Skelton and dad David, and had a fantastic lunch in the garden, whilst admiring all of David's good work! Next, we headed to Leeds to meet up with Bex. We had another gorgeous curry (god, we miss English curries!) then headed out to the local for the pub quiz with her neighbours, Ian & Beckie and Al & Laura. We didn't win but we had an hilarious evening nonetheless.

Finally the day we had booked in for ourselves to just stop - our spa day at Woodhall hotel in Wetherby. It was a super day of being rubbed, relaxing and spending time together. It sadly came to an end and we were back on the road again, this time to the Harrison/Travers/Smith holiday, in the Peak district. The cottage was gorgeous and had a big family sized table which we utilized for communal eating and card playing - the latter earning mum the nickname of bullets Brenda! It was very close to Matlock, so Andy & I got to re-visit the scene of our wedding which was a bit romantic :)

We also managed to find time for a walk around Carsington Water, a visit to some decent country pubs, local towns, a 5km run most mornings and playing games with the family. It was amazing to spend so much time with the family again-Daniel especially-and in such a gorgeous part of England. I was very happy too, to find some time to catch up with Jo in her swanky house on the hill and to meet her youngest Charlotte.

As Andy's birthday fell in the week of our sojourn to the Peak district, we took ourselves back to Doncaster for the day for a nice lunch with mum and then a meal at Carlos (world famous in Donny!) with the Donny friends; James, Sarah, Matt, Aimee, Mel, Bex and Jane. It was one of the best Italian meals ever, and with such a great crowd of friends too! I'm sure Andy would agree it was a brilliant birthday.

The week in the holiday house came too quickly to an end and it was emotional goodbye to all the family but Al - he came with us to Manchester to see the Boss! A great but expensive day in Manchester's finest vinyl shops then off to Manchester City Stadium to witness Mr Bruce Springsteen in action! It was an amazing show and it was wonderful to spend more time with Al. Another emotional goodbye in the morning, and we were back on the road to Doncaster, though for the last time on this trip. We had clocked up 1800 miles in 3 weeks....insane!

Final weekend in Doncaster, we finally got to see Phoebe, Lucy and Nig Precious for a cup of tea before a fantastic meal out at the Oriental Palace with mum, the family Lees (minus Dave and the kids, sorry Dave!), Nig and his girlfriend Michelle. A very fun evening indeed. The Sunday consisted of a quick trip to Leeds for me to have a few wines with Anna and then an afternoon of catching up with the Warnes family and Helen, Lyndon & David Walters too.

Somehow we found time to pack, and the next day we headed down to London after another emotional goodbye with mum at the station. I found time to meet up with Catherine and Liam in a pub in Soho which was a lot of fun, but then sad saying goodbye :(

The next day, tired and emotional, we did some last minute chores and finally boarded the plane to Singapore (via Frankfurt. Obviously.) And that is for the next blog post!

As you can see it was a busy month, so apologies if it sounds like a role call - we truly loved spending time with each and every one of you, so a massive thanks for putting us up and making us feel so at home - you made it very hard to leave! To those we didn't get chance to stay with or even see, you are top of our list for next time, promise. So Jo you have to stay in that house for a few more years at least and Bob and Chris we will make the trip to Wrexham next time!

Love you all and miss you. Keep in touch! X

Monday, 28 May 2012

Burlesque, Cannoli and shoes in NYC (May 2012)

Well that was fun … exhausting but fun! May 2012, New York city - tick. So what did we get up to? Here’s the top 10 of our time in NYC … At 10 - Walking. The best way to truly get to know a city is to pound the pavement and we certainly put in the leg work. From Upper East to the Financial District there can’t have been much of Manhattan we didn’t walk up, down or around. At 9 - A super relaxing afternoon in the “Water Lounge” of Great Jones Street Spa in the East Village before we flew out of the city. Miranda, if you’re reading this it could be something to look at for when you’re in the city later in the year. . Number 8 - A doctors to remember. For our rabies jabs for Indonesia we needed 3 separate jabs, each one week apart. Due to "planning issues" we ended up needing the 2nd jab whilst in NYC. We booked in at a doctors on the Upper East side, a building that used to be a private residence before being converted into a doctors surgery. We were privileged enough to get to see how some New Yorkers live - 6 floors of marble spiral staircase anyone? (see photo below). Number 7 - Sights. Walking across the Broklyn Bridge and seeing the new World Trade Centre come out of the ashes (on our last visit the Ground Zero sight was just a hole in the ground) were amazing. 1 WTC is as at May 2012 70 floors in height and will be hitting 105 (above surface floors) before completion. In at 6 (note this could well be higher on Janine‘s list but I‘m writing so ….) - Consignment stores, lots and lots of consignment stores with (more) shiny yet inexpensive shoes! At Number 5 - The High Line Walkway. What a superb idea - convert an old / derelict raised railway line into a public walkway / garden. 10 blocks of the highline has been developed / regenerated so far and there’s another 20+ to come. This comes with a Smith seal of recommendation for anyone visiting the city. Number 4 - Amazing bar staff - thanks especially to Aussie Tim at Belfry bar and Sarah at Bowery Electric for making us feel so welcome - Sarah @ Bowery Electric music favourites … Johnny Cash & June Carter - Jackson Queen - bohemian Rhapsody Janis Joplin - Bobby McGee David Bowie - Fame Elvis Costello - Either is of the same town Fave LP - Rent (original cast recording) Tim @ Belfry music favourites ... Radiohead - fake Plastic Trees Jeff Buckley - Lover you should have come over Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Ship Song Pink Floyd - Us and them Led Zeppelin - Rain song Fave LP - Abattoir Blues Nick Cave Number 3 - Great restaurants recommended by Zagat. From one end of the spectrum (The Old Homestead Steak House) to the other (Sacred Chow vegan cafĂ©) this city really does offer the very best. Lets not even get started on the cannoli served by Marinellas (see “Number 1”) Number 2 - New York City pizza - favourite place was once again Ben’s on McDougal Street, Greenwich Village. Nom. At Number One - Meeting up with David and Collette (ex-Goldman/Spherion colleagues.) A night of superb food (how had we never eaten cannoli before - oh my god), laughter, speak-easy crawling (Angels Share and Backroom) and accidental burlesque at Nurse Betties. It was just amazing to see you both - lets not wait 12 years until the next time!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Wellington Weather In The Big Aple

After a rather long and cramped flight (insert rant re people that put their seats back for the entire duration of an 11 hour fligt) we arrived safely in LA for our one night stop over. Jet lag kicked in resulting in a 1.30am trip to the gym! We both may look like zombies but at least we'll be in shape. If you think going on holiday is about sunshine and beaches then ours to date would be a far cry from ideal. We've now arrived safely in New York and it looks like we've brought a batch of Wellington weather with us - it's not stopped raining since we arrived and today's forecast is thunderstorms! J's over the moon with the news and is using the excuse of poor weather to execute "operation thrift store", what looks to be a plan with military precision (there's actually a route map and everything!). Last night (our first night here) J managed to score free tickets to a gig. We spent our evening in the Hard Rock Cafe underground garage on Time Square, listening to a selection of New Yorks finest. Jesse Malin was super impressive (if your reading this and going "who?", firstly shame on you and secondly, check YouTube it's what it's there for). Off now to brave the rain and abuse the credit card.