Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Onwards to Mallorca

I have tried to catch up on my diary and the blog but it's just been too difficult! Not enough time!

So Wales was great, it was really nice to see where mum spent her childhood. I have spent a lot of time imagining my parents in their childhood habitats on this holiday.
We went to the Lobster Pot (the only restaurant in Church Bay) for dinner and encountered some rather intoxicated men (with their wives) who decided that mum was their girlfriend and kept going on about oysters. It was quite unusual!

We thought we might go and stalk Kate and Wills one day so we headed to their local pub and had a wander along the beach - no sign of them unfortunately :(

We drove over what the locals called 'a really bad road, once you drive that road you can drive anywhere!' through Snowdonia national park on the way to Anglesey and were thoroughly disappointed because the road was pretty much straight and flat. And very short. We decided that we must have taken the wrong road do on our way back we went through Llanberis in the hopes of finding this mysterious road. No such luck. It was the same. The views on both roads were beautiful though so it was not a wasted effort.

On our way back we also decided that the Welsh and tourists who decide to come to Wales must be avid hikers because at the peak of our drive over Snowden there were little groups of people scaling the mountain - emerging from behind rocks, trekking through fields. It was quite funny. Like ants climbing an ant hill.
When we got to a little town on the other side we stopped in at a pub for some lunch. The news was on and it turns out that all those people on Snowden were actually climbing to the peak to light the Paralympic flame! How exciting!

We made it to Liverpool where we were catching our plane to Mallorca. We successfully dropped off the car and checked in. This was our first EasyJet experience and it was memorable to say the least. There is no allocated seating (something I have never experienced on a plane before) but if you pay an extra £30 you get a 'speedy boarding' meaning you can go on the flight before everyone else and choose whichever seats you want. If you don't have a speedy boarding pass then it is just a free-for-all so you have to be at the gate early so you are at the front of the queue. We didn't realize any of this but miraculously we were really early anyway.
At the gate people have formed a semi-orderly queue but there is no sight of a plane at the gate. So we had to wait for the plane to arrive, get everyone else off plus their baggage and then get us on. When the gate opened the speedy boarders (including a bunch of Geordie Shore lookalikes) went on and then the whole crowd behind us just pushed their way to the front. It was mayhem! We had been talking to a nice woman who lives in Mallorca and teaches English. She did this trip fairly regularly and even she looked a bit appalled. Once we got on, we got pretty good seats at the front. Once everyone was on board they started moving people around. The Geordie Shorers were on front of us but they got moved because there were kids in an emergency exit so obviously speedy boarding doesn't pay off!

We finally took off about half an hour late and the whole 2.5 hrs was insane! Kids singing, couples having domestics, people all over the aisles, people dressed in the most horrendous clothes... It was pretty tragic and by this point mum and I were really regretting our decision to go to the island at all!

We arrived at about midnight and it was SO hot. Probably around 30 degrees - the whole of Europe was in a severe heat wave. We managed to get a taxi to a cheapie hotel we had booked and just collapsed in to bed with life-saving air con.

In the morning we had to get back to the airport to pick up our rental car and battle driving on the wrong side of the road. My Spanish is really bad now but we managed and we got on our way. We were just heading into central Palma to start with and then going to Arta where we would stay for the rest of the 4 days. Mum drove to the city and we parked in a huge parking building with very few issues. Incredible!

We walked around the main area of Palma and had a coffee and pastry before getting adventurous and heading down little alley ways and across town to a place that the nice woman from the flight had recommended for markets. It was all beautiful and not at all what we expected. There didn't seem to be any tourists, it was all just Spanish speakers who looked like locals - maybe it was just too early in the morning.

Over in the markets in Santa Catalina, they had the most amazing vegetables. Huge capsicums and the best selection of fruit I have ever seen! Not to mention cheese and spices as well. So good!

We went to the cathedral which was spectacular and just enormous!

By this time it was sweltering and we thought it best to just start our trip to Arta. I said i'd drive there (what was I thinking!?) and trouble started before we'd even got out of the parking building. Underground Palma is almost unbearable in that heat and the pay station couldn't read our ticket. So we walked for miles to find someone to help us. The guy there just gave us a new ticket and we walked miles back to the car. Having narrowly avoided crashing into parked cars we made it to the barrier arm as people piled up behind us. The new card wouldn't work either but by now there were about 5 cars behind us tooting and getting really frustrated. So I had to get them all to back up so that I could get out and find the man again. So embarrassing. This time he just said, 'Go this way, push the button and go out'. No ticket. So when we got this other machine we just pushed the info button and he let us out. He was grateful to see us leave, I think!

After some minor navigational difficulties and some more tooting from people behind us we found our way on to the Ma-15 heading for Arta via Manacor. We stayed in the slow lane and refused to pass anyone because it was just too nerve wracking. Mallorca really likes it's roundabouts, in fact the whole of Europe does, which is confusing going around to the right. And of course expecting cars to be coming from the right and therefore looking the wrong way. We did sort of get the hang of it by the end of our time there with only one minor wing mirror incident. Thank god we got insurance though!

I had googled our airbnb place to find out directions on how to get there. I was feeling pretty good because I'd memorized it and knew exactly where we were going once we arrived in Arta. I could see on the map that there were a lot of one way streets but I had found a route through them and it was all good. What didn't realize is that the main street is only for pedestrians do stage one of my route fell to pieces. We proceeded to get ourselves completely lost on these TINY one way streets and seemed to be getting deeper and deeper into the heart of the town with no known way of getting back out again. We asked a local where Carrer Major was (in my best Spanish) and they looked blankly at us, 'No se'. Bloody hell. So we resumed our journey of getting lost. Luckily we came across a young woman and tried to ask her. It turned out she was English and knew the person we were staying with! So she gave us directions, we ditched the car and walked the 30m to her house. We were so close but had no way of getting the car there or even knowing how close we were because we'd been driving in circles for so long.

It was so hot that day and arriving at the house was possibly the most joyous occasion of my life! All the shutters were closed to keep the heat out so it was pitch black but a perfect temperature. Antonia, our host, greeted us and showed us our room and around the house. It is the most beautiful place with a swimming pool and a little bamboo covered terrace - perfect for surviving the heat wave!

There were 2 other people staying with her, Ruth and Stephan, a German couple who were lovely as well. This whole experience really changed our mind completely about Mallorca. It is such a wonderful place and we were lucky to have both Antonia and Eva as local guides.

One night Antonia booked mum, Eva, Ruth, Stephan and I at a restaurant in Cala Rajada where she knew the owner and there was a band playing. It was one of the most hilarious nights! The band were called Wunderbrass, a Mallorcan, jazz style group who also thought of themselves as comedians. Eva was the only one who could actually understand what they were saying but they were very physically amusing with their jokes do we all had a wonderful time.

We've just arrived in the most picturesque place in Ghiffa on Lake Maggiore so I feel this post needs to end!

Kerry :)

Pictured: not necessarily in order

Cafe in Cala Deia, Mallorca
Eva and I at Antonia's place on our last night.
Fred the cat in Arta - coolest cat around!
Mum and I on our first night in Arta at a restaurant called Mar de Vins - best restaurant by far.
TINY streets in Arta.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A taste of Wales

It turns out that Wales is completely free from WiFi access hence no blog.

So we made it to Sussex after a torturous time in Victoria Station. We almost killed each other - there were so many people and it was so hot that it was just mental. And when it came to getting off the train mum managed it but I got stuck on it and ended up having to go to the next station on my own and being picked up from there. Bit of a nightmare!

It was lovely to see the family in Sussex. We had a sort of reunion when we arrived and everyone came over to Eilidh's for a BBQ and copious amounts of alcohol. It was a beautiful day so we sat in her picturesque garden all afternoon.

Later we went over to Rowfant house (pictured) for a drink by the lake and my cousin Tony took me on a grand tour of the house and we even invited ourselves in to some man's bathroom so we could see the stained glass crest of the Locker-Lampson's which was pretty special.

I was feeling like ass that day due to a cold but pushed on through until about 9pm.

The next morning mum, Tony and I went for a walk through the woods from Eilidh's to Tony's. It's so idyllic there. And so lush! We had coffee at Tony and Francis' before heading to Gatwick to pick up a car a drive to Peterchurch where we were staying with an airbnb couple (our first one!).

We got to Gatwick, I was about to die from illness, picked up the car and met up with Emma and Hamish who are due to be parents any day now. Very exciting! It was a very brief catch up and I was feeling awful so I wasn't the best company unfortunately!

We started our road trip to Wales and on the M25 so it wasn't the most scenic route but we had been given directions for one of the A roads from a friend of mum's who we were going to visit en route. We missed the turn off because as I woke up I thought mum was taking off onto some random motorway and I screamed and told her to go off on the wrong ramp. Fortunately it didn't make any difference because we could still turn off at a place called Sodbury and end up in the same place. So we got off there and tried to find a place for lunch. We came across a place called Malmesbury (pictured) and thought we'd see what was on offer. Turns out that Malmesbury is the oldest, and prettiest, town in Britain! So gorgeous. Little old stone houses, pretty lanes with window boxes full of colorful flowers, surrounded by the original wall and a river. We couldn't believe our luck! Nowhere was serving food but we had a bag of chips in a funny little pub with a dero skittle hall and an expansive beer garden.

As we were leaving I found out that there was an abbey in Malmesbury with 5 acres of garden and over 10,000 varieties of roses so we had to go back even though we were running SO late by this point.

The gardens were spectacular and I can see that we will end up trying to replicate them at home! Oh dear!

We finally got back on the road and headed for Liz's place in Cannop. We went along quite a few back roads which were barely wide enough to fit a car through but they were 2 way roads (pictured).Very pretty though with the banks lined with wild roses and berries.

We arrived at Cannop and I collapsed on the sofa barely able to speak. Mum had a glass of wine and we scoffed some pikelets before heading back to our tiny VW Up! and getting back on track to Peterchurch.

More tiny back roads crossing into Wales briefly (Highland cattle in the highlands of Wales - pictured), some good examples of the Welsh language (pictured) and an encounter with 2 incredibly drunk Welshmen (drunk and Welsh is a combination that makes language unintelligible) and we were back in England and searching for the smallest town with no addresses and in the dark. Needless to say we got lost and the host had to wander the street looking for us. We did eventually make it there and almost instantaneously collapsed into bed.

The hosts were very nice and welcoming and had 2 adorable dos, Monty (pictured) and Jasper. We were given a tour around their chocolate house the next morning and bought a few bits and pieces for the car ride. Nom!

We resumed the drive to Anglesey via many little towns and back roads. All were very pretty. Mum had read an article about the 'Great Drives of Britain' and had read that the drive through Snowdonia was meant to be one of them. So we stopped in a little village just before the park and asked some people if they knew which road it was. . They looked a bit confused but said it was probably this particular road going through Llanberis but it was a really bad road and once you'd driven there you can drive anywhere. We thought that was quite exciting so off we went. Halfway over we realized we weren't heading towards Llanberis (there are a few different routes through the park) which was just as well because the road was better than 90% of the roads in NZ. So we had a giggle and decided we'd do the real one on our way to Liverpool.

We got to Wales and our accommodation had been changed due to the original people double booking but the new accommodation was actually much better and closer to where we wanted to be. I had to sleep that afternoon to get my health back on track but mum went for a walk around her old stoping ground, Church Bay (pictured).

That evening we went in search of food and asked a man walking along the road where we should go. He was Welsh (not drunk this time) and I couldn't understand anything he said. He was speaking English but it was just impossible. I think I squinted my eyes up thinking that it would somehow make me understand something - it didn't work. We ended up at a place called The Stag Inn in Caemes Bay. Food was alright, decor needed some work. For some reason we stood out like sore thumbs in Wales. People constantly stared at us. It was very weird.

Ok. Enough for one post. I need to catch up but I also need to catch up with my diary.

Adios from Arta!

Kerry x

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Off to Sussex

Well, our trip out of London is about to commence except for the fact that mum has been frantically looking for some of her NZ bank cards which appear to have gone missing. We were just about to go and retrace our steps through the whole of London looking for them when I got a text from my cousin who's mother in Sussex just got a call from the Hammersmith Police Station saying that they have my mother's documents! Unbelievable.

Let's hope this is the last time the police are involved in this trip! Fingers crossed.

Royal College of Surgeons - Hunterian Museum

Yesterday we went to the Hunterian Museum and it was amazing! Not for the squeamish though! It is a collection of 3,500 specimens - animals, humans, foetuses of both, diseases, surgeries, disfigurement and experiments - most of which are from the 18th Century. They had things like human teeth implanted into the comb of a hen (to prove that foreign bodies would be expelled from the host body - this was done because people had tried to replace a lost tooth with someone else's which mainly resulted in horrific infections), huge tumours that were removed with no anaesthetic, skeletal deformities etc. it was so fascinating! Anyway, here are a few photos from the postcards - no photography allowed at the museum :(

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Halfway there

Well, the first and second legs of this trip have been successful! We are in Hong Kong and due to board our flight to London in about an hour. I am so exceptionally tired so I hope I can sleep on this next flight.

Auckland to Hong Kong was pretty bumpy but the plane stayed in the air which was nice. Mum was watching a movie with headphones on and kept unintentionally screaming at me while everyone else was trying to sleep. I actually have no idea where she is at the moment which is somewhat worrying seeing as she really likes boarding planes at the very last minute and I have her boarding pass.

This airport is just enormous! When we disembarked we had no idea where we were or where we were meant to go but someone told us to get on a train so we did. The train was driverless which was unnerving. Anyway, we got off the train and were confronted by the most gigantic escalator I've ever seen. It must have been about 5 storeys high. Mum refused to get on it (but did suggest that I get on it so she could take a photo! I never would have seen her again!) so we found a lift which she got into and I didn't so we almost lost each other again. We really shouldn't travel together! Not to mention that I got stopped at the gate in Auckland because my boarding pass wouldn't scan and she had merrily tottered onto the plane with no thought that I may not have been behind her!

We haven't been outside here but it's apparently 30C and 11 o'clock at night. So crazy. We'll be here for 3 days on our way home so no doubt will feel the full force of it then.

Anyway, a few photos of us about to depart Auckland.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

New adventure

It's the fiiinal countdown! Although I highly doubt I will find a sloth in Europe this will continue to be my travel blog (minus Cambodia).

Tomorrow is my last day in NZ before my mother and I head over to Europe for our centenary celebrations (her 70th birthday and my 30th). I fear there may be madness on the cards but we have to hope for the best!

Most of our accommodation has been booked so at least that is one thing organized. Our semi planned trip is as follows:

Arrive London, stay for a few days.
Train to Sussex to see the family.
Fly to Wales to se where mum was born.
Train to Liverpool then fly to Mallorca.
Stay Mallorca for 4 days.
Fly to Paris then train to Poitiers.
Stay Poitiers for a few days.
Somehow get to Italy.
Stay Lake Maggiore for 3 days.
Hire car and drive from Lake Maggiore to Venice.
Stay Venice for a few days.
Drive to Slovenia for 4 days.
Drive to Trieste - stay a few days.
Fly Trieste to Rome.
Rome overnight then fly to Hong Kong.
Stay Hong Kong few days.
Fly Hong Kong to NZ.

All this in one month. Craziness! But, no doubt, much fun will be had!

Let the games begin!