Sunday, 23 May 2010


So the train was definitely our style – hours and hours of delicious first class.  We shared a little cabin room with a lovely retired Australian couple.  They were visiting their daughter and also rail passing around Europe.  I was very jealous.

The trains were absolutely amazing – living in the UK where you never know if a train will be on time or what platform it will stop at – to getting on a train to find a little leaflet that explained to the minute when it would stop, how many minutes it would be there and what other trains you could get from there and at what time and at what platform was amazing!

We did have a little difficulty with the train tickets.  The tickets had been bought on credit card, which had since expired.  The German ticket company said you definitely needed the card with the ticket, but the card had been destroyed and the new card had a different number.  The humans had tried to update it online but to no avail and no one in customer services had been able to help except to say “Hopefully the ticket man will accept your new card as proof, or you may have to pay full fare”.  Well… there were a few tense moments, let me tell you, when the ticket inspector looked at the ticket and the card and then went outside for a few moments. *sharp intake of breath* luckily, however, he handed the tickets (and the card) back and let us on our way.

Then we arrived in Amsterdam – hurrah!  We have been quite a few times with the human and the human’s mother, but always enjoy it – there are so many things to see and do and it really is a lovely place just to wander around.  And that is mostly what we did.

We found our hostel – which was in the middle of the red light district! Of course, in my old business hippo days, there were rumours of clients being entertained by similar places elsewhere, but I… obviously… know nothing about that.  The hostel was basic but nice – the rooms were all “themed” and painted by artists.  Ours mostly seemed like a cell!  There was a bar downstairs that also did food, an area to sit outside, drink tea and use the wifi and apparently a club underneath but we never ventured down that far.

We arrived quite late but had a gooooood long wander around and had dinner in a lovely Japanese place.  The human spoke very basic Dutch to the restaurant owner who promptly apologised and exchanged the English menu for the Dutch one!  The human sheepishly asked for the English one back.

On the second day, the weather was absolutely beautiful, so we ventured out for breakfast, to somewhere we had had recommended for profitjes, but unfortunately they didn’t sell them.  Then we wandered down and looked at lots of markets and then spent the afternoon in the Vondelpark.  It was lovely and sunny… we did give the human a stern talking to when she got sunburnt.

The third day arrived quickly and we tried the free breakfast the hostel provided.  It was rather plain, unexciting but free.  We then checked out and moved to our second hostel, the Passenger Avanti – a boat! A BOAT!  

Our room was a teeeeny tiny cabin, but there was a big kitchen, dining and lounge area at the top of the boat and there was a beautiful outdoor area for sitting and rocking on.  The human was excited by the large quantity of DVDs to watch (and by the dog that was occasionally around).

We then had lunch in a vegetarian café – the food was very hearty and very delicious.  Quite expensive though.

The humans visited the Amsterdam Dungeon, which was ridiculously expensive and delivered in about a third English and two thirds Dutch – but they didn’t explain what was said in either language, so those that weren’t fluent in both seemed a bit confused!  Now, you might think “Duh, of course it wasn’t just in English!” but the people stood outside enticing you in, definitely implied it was!  Stick to the York Dungeon, I suggest – much cheaper!

The human had been wanting to go skating in the Vondelpark but unfortunately ran out of time – next time, eh?

After a bit more wandering and looking around, we returned to the boat and made a delicious dinner and ate it on deck.

Then Sleepy and I retired to bed, whilst the humans went to the cinema.  They saw The Ghost (or The Ghost Writer).  The human said there were two French people next to her who blatantly didn’t understand much English or Dutch, but one did find the use of a particular swear word quite funny, especially when he had to translate it for his girlfriend.  Eventually he said that he thought Price of Persia was more his type of film and then they both left.

There wasn’t much time on our final day.  The Canadian woman running the boat suggested visiting the library.  So off we went.  And what can I say, but it was absolutely the library of the future.  It was white and airy and windowy and lovely.  There were computers everywhere that you could just jump on to – no logging on or timing or anything, there were cafes and all the newspapers you could wish for and a piano.  A piano! In a library!  The piano did have a sign saying “Advance Players Only.  Please play for no longer that 30 minutes at a time” but that seemed to be the only rules.  The human is not an advanced player, but fortunately the other human with us was.  He realised this was probably his biggest ever audience, since the whole library could hear you! It was lovely being sat right at the top, checking our emails, hearing beautiful piano music being played.

Now, again, we are waiting for the train.  Not first class, but, y’know, a hippo can’t have everything.


Thursday, 20 May 2010


And so to Germany!  Berlin to be exact.  Or is it spelt Bearlin.  There seems to be a lot of bears around.

So after arriving here later than originally planned meant that we arrived quite late at the hostel, so just wondered around the area, ate some food (the human seemed impressed with her ability to remember some German, easily pleased that one) and frequented the hostel bar.

Now, if you do happen to find yourself in Berlin, looking for a place cheaper than a hotel but nicer than a normal hostel, we’d definitely recommend the Globetrotter Odyssee Hostel.  The room was hostely and a little bare, but clean, painted and comfy.  It has a lovely, huge kitchen (unfortunately only available after they’ve finished brekkie in the morning) and the common area had a small cheap bar, computers, books and table football.  The breakfast was filling too.  It was generally pretty great for the price.  

Day one – Walking tour and Aussie company

So first full day.  We went on the Berlin Free Walking Tour, with a lovely Aussie tour guide, Anique.  It was a great tour, we learnt so much, saw so much and had a great time.  Anique mentioned that tour people got cheap schnitzel at a particular restaurant, if anyone wanted to join her.  So we all tagged along (especially when we heard that our English companion had never even heard of schnitzel, let alone eaten it!)  Anique’s Aussie friends joined us and we did indeed have delicious, cheap schnitzel (and veggie schnitzel).  Then she offered to continue to show us around.  We went with them for the rest of the evening.  It was really great of them to let us tag along and it was great to see some areas that were off the map. 

We have since spoken to a few people about the Free Walking Tour and discovered that the tour guide has to pay the company for each person that comes on the tour – so if you do decide to take a tour – be sure to tip well or else you are costing the guide.  And trust us, if your tour was half as good as I were, it will be totally worth it.

Day two – Build a bear, DDR Museum, Walking, Squats, Punk Pizza and Drinking Mead from a horn

We did the most important thing first, visited Build A Bear.  The woman in the shop was delightful, stamped our passport, chastised the human for not filling them with more information and then gave us some lovely bows for our hair.  Too girly for us, so the human snatched them for herself.

We visited the DDR Museum which was an interesting insight into life in the GDR.  The human keeps spouting little interesting information she learnt in there to whomever will listen.

Then we walked and walked and walked.  Berlin is great for exploring, so many interesting places, arty types and squats.  The human found a supermarket so dragged us round excitedly.  It always seems the highlights of her holidays is running around foreign supermarkets and enjoying foreign food.

Now, for your one big fancy meal in Germany, what would you go looking for?  That’s right, we went Italian.  A friend had recommended this Punk Rock Pizza Joint – also known as Cucina Casaligna – an amazing pizzeria (best pizza we’ve had in a long time) – run by people with a love for punk rock.  The walls were covered with posters, but for those not interested in the music, no need to worry – it isn’t playing and if you ignore the posters, it’s just like any other amazing pizza place.  The waiter spoke Italian, German and a little English.  The human spoke a little Italian, a little German and English.  They muddled through and got there in the end. 

After such a lovely meal, Sleepy and I stayed in and enjoyed some relaxing, played some table football whilst the humans checked out the Viking Rock Bar they had seen advertised.  Oddly, on the way to find it, they found a completely different Viking Rock Bar.  It wasn't a chain, they were just two individual Viking Rock Bars, within four minute walks of each other.  Who knew there were so many Vikings in Berlin, looking to rock.  The human drank mead from a horn.  Odd behaviour.

Day three - train

And so today we are waiting for the train...

Monday, 17 May 2010

Leaving the country

We are thinking of trading the human in for a new one.  She showed herself to be a terrible trip-starter-off-erer.

First, there was the passport debacle.  Who, in less than a week before going on holiday, decides to lose their passport?!  The human went to the cinema to see Four Lions  (£10 inc snacks) and then went to BBs in Sheffield for dinner (£20).  Then returned home to find her passport was no longer in her bag.  So add to that total £50 for the train to Liverpool and £130 for a new passport!  So that's over £200 spent on the traditional evening of dinner and a movie.  Nearly the entire budget for the trip blown, before we’d even left the country.

Now, talking about leaving the country, the human has done that enough times by now, that you’d think it would all be easy going.  Oh no.  What does she go and do?  Books a plane to fly off, just as there is volcano ash landing everywhere. 

At 10pm the night before we had intended to leave, our flight from East Midlands (originally £25) was cancelled.  So our travelling companions set about looking at every alternative route to getting to Berlin the next day.  The cheapest option was getting the coach from Sheffield to Berlin for £47, a delightful 25 hour trip.  However, unfortunately, it didn’t leave until Wednesday and so by the time we arrived we’d be leaving again.  The next cheapest option was getting the train to London, the Eurostar to Brussels and flying from there, but this was around £250 each!  Whilst trying to book it, the Eurostar website crashed.  Luckily, at about 3am, the human thought to look at an airport she hadn't considered before – Bristol – and luckily Easyjet was flying that day for £90 at 5.30pm, so we decided to take a risk and go for it.

At 7am we were awoken by the human’s mother, getting in touch to let us know that Bristol had closed, but was scheduled to possibly re-open at 4.00pm.  In order to be there on time we had to get the train at 12.30pm.  We decided we would just take a chance on it re-opening and got the train (£60ish) to Bristol.  Our budget holiday *gulp* has already got very expensive.

Luckily, at 1pm, the human’s mother got back in touch to say the airport was open! Hurrah!

A short wait at Bristol airport (very small, but some nice places to sit in the sun, before you go through security) and now we’re off to Berlin. 

Monday, 3 May 2010

Abu Dhabi Airport

Who knew there would be hippos in the Abu Dhabi airport!!  Camels, yes.  We knew there would be camels.  But hippos?

But there are.  There's a whole bar dedicated just to hippos.  Although they do let humans in as well.  Look:

It was all very exciting.  And we had lots of yummy things to eat and drink.  Then we got onto another plane and came home.  At least, home as far as London.  We're in a hotel near the airport at the moment.  Soon we will be taking a HUGE umber of trains and heading back to Tupton.  Then on to Sheffield on Wednesday.

We had a lovely time in Australia.  Now - where to next?

Saturday, 1 May 2010

TIme to go home

We've had a lovely few days in Mount Martha.  We went for a lovely walk along an estuary boardwalk.  We ate lots and lots.  We had lots of snuggles with Grandma Stella.  And we had lots of snoozes in her very comfortable chair.

Then we came back to Melbourne to Lindsey and Ian's flat and LOTS of people came to dinner for steak and fish and **roast** **potatoes**.  IT was very yummy.  We LERV roast potatoes.

And now it is our last day and we are all packed and ready to fly.  But first - we are going out for lunch when Lindsey gets back from work.  We didn't think people worked on Saturday mornings but it seems that sometimes they do.

We will be sad to leave our family in Australia.  But we are looking forward to seeing our family in England again.  We are very lucky to have family in lots of countries.  We have family in Japan too.