BANGKOK, THAILAND. 5 nights only 9-14th January 2018

Having decided to forgo the first seven weeks of what was to be our second world cruise in a year due to visa issues we made plans to fill in that time fairly easily. An extended time in the U.K allowed us our three nights in Brighton and wanting to catch up with family and friends in NZ we booked a five night stop over in Bangkok before flying onto Auckland New Zealand.

To be honest I’m not a huge fan of plane travel (unless it’s premium economy or business class) it’s hours at the airport beforehand even if you’ve already checked in online just to get through all the airport hoops these days.

Then crushed in like sardines with little in the way of customer service and for most of us travelling either from or to home in Australia or New Zealand its a bloody long slog.

Just to get to Bangkok we had to change planes in Dubai and we were exhausted by the time we arrived at our hotel in Bangkok.

Even with a supposedly upgrade to a mini suite it’s pretty much in need of a refurbishment and their breakfast buffet leaves one wondering how they could possibly do worse. The area around is much like Kuta in Bali without the beach and the prices are much more than you would pay in Bali.

Ok sounds like we’re suffering from firstworlditus. We’re actually not that hard to please but we found our first real stay in Bangkok looking less than what we were hoping for.

Except it got better! The three day rule kicked in and apart from the noise from the nightclub across the road not stopping till 4 am in the morning ( this has seriously impacted on us not being able to recalibrate our time changes) we started to relax and enjoy our time here.

The first evening we were starving as we hadn’t eaten on either of the two flights we had and decided to keep our appetite for some yummy Thai food when we arrived.

After satisfying our tummies we had a walk around the local area before calling for time out.

We spent the next day leisurely waking up, grabbing some breakfast from downstairs and strolled around stopping to wander through a shopping centre and really didn’t do a lot. Really feeling the jet lag and still recovering from the cold I caught on the last day of our Christmas Cosmos tour.

We had dinner at Chilli culture a restaurant recommended by our friend Eric and tried for another early night.

Thursday the 11 th we decided the weather had perked up enough to spend the day poolside which is exactly what we did. I think this was the turning point as we really started to catch up on that exhaustion and after a real Thai massage that evening which began to soothe out some tight muscles we were ready for dinner and bed.

We booked a private tour for the Friday and our lovely guide Sundra? Picked us up from our hotel and off we went ….

two skytrains, two boat rides, a tuk tuk, shuttle and walking we got a good idea of how to use the public transport which is what we were hoping for, for return visits and we got to see The Grand Palace,

Jim Thompson’s house some local artisans plying their trade and a fair amount of of the diversity of Bangkok.

After arriving back on the skytrain near our hotel we left our guide and headed out for late lunch, this turned into a lovely afternoon tea at The Landmark hotel instead. Home to the hotel and a few hours poolside before we headed out in the evening for dinner and to finish the day James had a massage and I had a facial.

Starting to get the holiday vibe on by now and so on our final full day the Saturday we had a very late start, missed the hotel breakfast so went out for that then took the sky train to Mo Chit to the weekend markets which are HUGE! We spent three hours wandering around being surprised by some of the great quality we saw as well as the usual market tat.

Wandered around on the other side of the Main Street near our hotel and had an early dinner over there as prices were better and actually was the best meal we’ve had here. A last visit to our Praw spa girls for a final massage to loosen those kinks some more and it was time to tick off another day.

next day we simply relaxed by the pool before it was time to head to the airport for our next stop Auckland with a quick two hour stopover in Sydney.

LONDON AND BRIGHTON, DECEMBER 28th 2017 – 8th JANUARY 2018

It doesn’t matter how quick your flight is it still takes all day to travel and getting to our accommodation in London from Munich was no different.

It was a hard day for me as I had unfortunately succumbed to the coughing cold that had spread through our coach tour. So it was with great relief to knock on the door of our Airbnb in Sidney Square and be welcomed in to a warm home.

Our room is spacious and comfortable with a large bathroom attached. The only thing missing is a bath which would be just lovely.

We have use of the kitchen which has been helpful with not spending too much money on eating out.

Although not feeling awesome still want to make the most of our time so on our first full day ventured off on foot to Brick Lane and enjoyed a coffee and look at the vintage markets and generally had a good look see.

We then caught the bus into the Saint Paul’s area and strolled around taking in the Millennium bridge which was blowing a gale so fairly unpleasant. Had a meal of fish n chips as you do when in the UK.

We headed back home and opened a bottle of red and made chilli con crane and rice and thought about our next days adventures.

Although we’re starting off late morning we’re spending as much time out as we feel up to.

The Saturday ended up being a fairly long day as we started off at Trafalgar Square and ended up walking down The Mall past the Palace and finally ended up at The Victoria and Albert museum which is BRILLIANT and we highly recommend a visit there. We definitely need more time there.

Before you know it the end of the year approaches and it was Sunday the 31st December and nothing planned for New Year’s Eve. Having to have tickets to get into London for the fireworks and not feeling that being out in the cold night air is a great idea with my cold and now James starting to cough too. We decided just to go into the city for the early afternoon and be home warm and dry before it got too dark.

We headed to Coventry, Leicester Square, and surrounds and were delighted with all we saw. Unfortunately it started to rain quite heavily and we came home a little earlier than planned but with full intentions of returning another day.

we could hear the fireworks quite clearly from our home in East London but couldn’t see them at all except great coverage on the telly.

New Year’s Day and we decided to walk to Poplar where the tv series “call the midwife”is based on. Actually I don’t think any of the show is shot there but it was an interesting walk anyway. Then we hoped on the train and went to the Tate Modern for a looksie, but not before going to The Anchor pub for a humongous nosh of roast beef with all the trimmings. Best meal we’ve had for a while.

There’s great views from the top of the Tate, but the apartment blocks next door seem almost like another exhibition with their floor to ceiling glass.

Second of January and we headed to Notting Hill Gate and walked Portobello road and then walked over to Kensington gardens. Took a look at The Princess Diana memorial fountain which to be honest was quite underwhelming and resembles a giant street curb.

The gardens are quite lovely though and although the whole day has been drizzling we didn’t let it stop us enjoying the fresh air.

Tonight we’re having a home cooked curry by our Airbnb hosts Jon and Ella. Jon it turns out is quite the cook and has made scones twice and a banana bread as well as home baked bread every day. We’ve supplied the wine and wouldn’t you know our luck at the local shop they stocked the same red we drink at home.

we had a lovely evening and went to bed full of good food and slept in a little the next day, before getting ready to go into the city to catch the matinee of Kinky Boots the stage show which we had booked for knowing that we were going to go on to Notting Hill again to the Churchill arms pub to catch up with a work colleague of James, whom had also left just before James did to travel. He and his wife have been lucky enough to be able to get English passports so can work in the U K no problem. The pub had a great Thai restaurant attached so by the time we got back to our accommodation we had had a brilliant day out. The show was fantastic and such good prices to catch shows in London you would go regularly if you lived here.

Thursday the 4 th January and we hit the trains to Windsor and visited Queenies Castle. What a great day out the town is gorgeous and the castle was superb, we even caught the changing of the guard.

Thoroughly recommend a Day there if you have time.

Friday the 5 th an we were originally going to be starting our second wold cruise from Tilbury, London today except visas got in the way and we cancelled the first 7 weeks and will pick up the ship in Sydney now on the 24 th February.

So with seven weeks till then we booked flights onward but not till the 8 th January so we took the bus to Brighton for the next three nights and couldn’t be happier with our hotel. It has all the comforts we want and in a great size room and James is thrilled to have a bath oh and a tv.

We’re in a fantastic location and straight after checking in we went off walking the streets stopping for a bit of late lunch and walked for several hours. We’ve been here before but only for a day visit so looking forward to exploring a bit more. Hotel includes breakfast so at $105 Aus a night great value for the quality we have.

there’s a great breakfast room at our hotel and it’s included in the price so made good use of the lovely food on offer including cooked breakfast if wanted before we head out for each day.

After our first night sleep and breakfast we took the bus to Eastbourne another seaside town further around the coast towards Hastings. The drive through the countryside is a big factor on going there and scoring front row upstairs gave us a great view.

After a good look around and a great meal at a French patisserie that made beautiful quiche and salads we weren’t hungry for dinner back in Brighton and made do with tea and biscuits and a bag of crisps while watching Midsommer murders on the telly in bed.

Sunday we decided to do the coastal walk which was brilliant and we ended up 5 kms down the road at Rottingdean. This town turned out to be a real find, full of period places and was once the hometown of Rudyard Kipling and some fine little cafe and restaurants and village green and gardens.

We had a traditional Sunday roast beef and Yorkshire pudding at the cutest cottage and really felt like we had enjoyed a great day out.

Took the bus back into Brighton to the shops to grab a few things before heading home for the evening and repacking our bags before we start the trip South towards home the next evening with a plane to Bangkok for five nights and some much warmer weather.

Another chapter in our travels nears its end and we will leave the UK with great memories and be excited to hit the shores of Tilbury in May when our ship docks there and we catch the train to Cornwall and our three weeks in Mousehole.

In the meantime we have plenty to look forward to so keep watching this space.

COSMOS TOUR 20-28th DECEMBER 2017″

December 20th.

After a day doing not too much except the Deutsches Museum and moving to the hotel our tour was leaving from, 6pm rolled around and it was time to meet the tour director and other tour members for a quick run down on a few housekeeping issues for the trip. After the quick meeting James and I headed back to the Greek restaurant close by for our last meal. They treated us to a nip of ouzo at the end of our meal and wished us safe travels so that was a pleasant end to our stay in Munich.

All very civilised the next morning with breakfast at 7.30 am and on the bus for an 8:30 departure with our first stop to be at Nuremberg. Very glad we spent the day there on the Tuesday as it was a only a two hour stop and it was raining whereas Tuesday had been a beautiful clear day. We Spent our time having coffee and cake and a tour of the medieval dungeons with a quick walk through the streets back to the bus.

We scored the front seats on the bus which was a bonus as we will be rotating every day and this was one of the longest driving days.

Headed into Prague about 5pm and what a groovy old hotel the international is, she sure is a grand old lady and we could not be happier with our room which is extremely large and comfortable.

We didn’t sign up for the optional dinner at 48€ each we decided we were more keen to hop on the tram and head into the old town to catch it in all its Christmas glory.

Prague was looking simply stunning and we spent three and a half hours wandering around and grabbing something to eat and of course a beer.

Friday the 22nd and we had an included tour of part of the city, which we went on then left the group at 11 am.

The municipal building has a grand feel from days gone by and we booked a tour through it and also tickets for a couture exhibition there as well. But before that we enjoyed coffee and cake in the restaurant.

The tour was excellent, really great guide who was knowledgeable without throwing so much at you, you wouldn’t take it in.

After there we attacked an art gallery with exhibitions by Salvidor Dali, Andy Warhol and Alfons Mucha. All terrific and really informative.

By then we were happy to catch the bus back to hotel and relax before meeting everyone for dinner at 7.

Saturday 23rd and it’s off to Vienna and a tour of the town. James and I have been here three times in the last seven years so didn’t take many photos during the day.

but after arriving at our hotel in the afternoon we quickly headed back in towards town to catch a couple of the Christmas markets. It’s not just the stalls but the decorations, lights, and atmosphere that really are the winning combination that pull you in to these markets.

All too soon it was the 24th December and we hopped on the bus and off to Schonbrunn Palace, where some were doing the inside tour. Having done that twice already we walked the gardens and up to the Gloriette to enjoy the view back over the gardens, the palace and beyond to the Vienna woods.

It was so glorious with so few people around to really enjoy the serenity…

A coffee and stroll around the Christmas markets before getting back on bus and heading back into the city for a few hours free time and then it was off to BUDAPEST.

we have been so lucky with the hotels on this tour, due to the low season pricing we’ve been scoring much better hotels in great spots.

What can you say about Budapest, except she’s beautiful and a Christmas Eve Danube Cruise was a lovely way to spend the evening and have some fun with the tour group.

Christmas morning and after breakfast we had an included sightseeing tour taking in all the usual sights, Heroes Square, Parliament House, fisherman’s bastion and then it was back to the hotel for Christmas lunch.

We had planned to go to Gellert Spa in The afternoon and we were joined by Karen and Terry from Willoughby for a lovely walk there and back and a wonderful couple of hours floating around in the luxurious surrounds of these thermal pools.

And then it was time to pack our bags for Salzburg.

It was almost dark by the time we arrived after stopping for lunch on the way at Melk to see the ornate inside of their monastery.

We checked out the bus timetable and headed into the old town hopefully to catch the last of their Christmas market which was finishing that day. They were just starting the pack down when we arrived but we still got a taste of what it was like and after a couple of lovely hours strolling around we headed back for the hotel and call it a day.

The next morning the 27 th we had an excursion about the sound of music and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Really saw some parts of the city we wouldn’t know were there and the local guide was excellent.

I am sixteen going on seventeen………..

James outside the convent where sister Maria went.

We had another couple of hours in the town before we all climbed aboard for our drive back to Munich and our farewell dinner.

We have really enjoyed our Cosmos tour and everyone was friendly and good company.

The youngest 13 and the oldest not quite sure but I know someone turned 68 on the tour.

So we waved and hugged everyone goodbye as we all leave for our next adventures and we take a flight to London.

GERMANY 7th DECEMBER- 20th DECEMBER 2017

Day eight and we are packed and ready for our trip around the country.
We wished Thomas a happy birthday and thanked them both for the warmest hospitality and their kindness to us. We really had not planned on staying so long but we so enjoyed their company and plans they made for us to see and go to places we would not have, had we not stayed the extra time.
But we must leave them to get on with their lives and we must use our rail pass to see this country in all its winter magic.
Our first destination Dresden.

It’s a picturesque trip through the German countryside passing green fields and romantic looking villages and towns on the way. The ICE train is easy to use and with a dining carriage should you need refreshments it’s a very pleasant way to travel.

We have booked two nights at Sax Imperial villa. It’s even more impressive when we arrive than the photos online and we feel we’ve hit the jackpot.

The tram ride here gave us a sense of how stunning Dresden is and the area we’re staying is gobsmacking with gorgeous mansions and buildings.

Our room is on the third floor and in the attic space, it’s big, clean, comfortable and even has a heated bath. There is a window on each side with views of a skating ring that is lit up at night.

We ventured over and were in awe of the space around the rink. Lots of great things for all ages to enjoy as well as the skating.

We treated ourselves to a delicious Italian meal in the town and walked around afterwards to get a feel for the town and walk some of that pasta off.

A very happy couple fell asleep excited for the next day.

We caught the tram into the city via a stop to try and sort out a SIM card we had purchased. It’s proving to be more of a headache than it’s worth so we decided not to spend anymore of our precious time on it and just enjoy the day.

To say Dresden is impressive is an understatement!

We were just floored by its beauty and majesty.

Returning into the heart of the city, we mooched around quite happily absorbing all the atmosphere and had a few tastes of things to eat before we decided to head back to our hotel to relax and prepare for our trip to Berlin via a stop at Leipzig the next day.

Dresden deserves more time and is one we will put on our want to return to list.

A fairly early start for us the next morning as we had a 9:13 am train to Leipzig, where we planned to stay from 10:30 am till 5:15 pm before getting train onto Berlin.

Leipzig turns out to be another picturesque city with Christmas markets all around the central heart of the city.

The train station is huge and had lockers so we were able to leave the backpack with most of our stuff in there and just trot around with our light weight day packs.

The station is also integrated with a fairly large shopping centre so good if you need anything before heading out into the cold and snow.

We had a great day wandering around trying different things to eat at the markets, checking out some old churches, looking at some of the shops as well as a few good breaks as it’s quite hard work walking around all day in boots and a million layers. We would definitely come to Leipzig again.

The train is just over an hour from there to Berlin and we found the local train we needed to our hotel pretty easily and were once again thrilled when we alighted to see we were in a beautiful part of Berlin with lots of restaurants and gorgeous wide streets. Our hotel is great and much better than we could have hoped for at the price, around €52 a night.

A hot bath to thaw ourselves out and a beer from the vending machine down the hall and we were ready to call it a day, another great day!

We didn’t rush the next morning and stopped at a bakery for coffee and croissant before taking to the street to walk to a few places we had circled on a map. But we came across a city tour bus that was such great value for three days and would take us to all the places we had marked on our map we signed up and hopped on.

We’ve been to Berlin before so some of the tourists must sees we’ve done, but we enjoyed driving past them again. We jumped off at the Christmas markets in Gendarmenmarkt, again at the flea market and finally at Schloss Charlottenburg for the Christmas markets there. Really beautiful locations for the Christmas markets once again and a little bit of snow helps the mood. We’ve been trying something different to eat each day so getting through most of the traditional German treats.

Even found a little Kiwi family at the market.

We got off the bus about 4:30 pm up the street from our hotel. It was already dark as sun down 4 pm. James saw a sign for a museum about the story of Berlin which was open till 8 pm so we decided we’d spend the last of our day out exploring the museum and taking the tour they offered to an underground bunker which was built in the fifties in the time of the Cold War and threat of atomic bombs.

Thoroughly informative and interesting museum and two and a half hours well spent. Time for home a bath and another beer from that vending machine before ticking that day off.

Woke up on Monday the 11th December and just couldn’t jump out of bed, my legs still felt tired, but after a little lie in we got up and headed off. Our second day of the city circle bus tour was going to be the purple line aka the Old East German line. After our fairly late start and had to travel on the yellow till stop 8 to catch stop 1 of the purple we then got off at the purple 2 to find brunch. Actually this turned out to be a really nice area and we took longer walking around here because it was such an attractive area to be in the Hackescher market area and you could also walk to the river area also which we did.

This tour takes you past the Berlin Wall memorial and also the east side gallery where around 100 slabs of the wall were painted on by famous artists after the 1989 reunification.

There are a ton of museums and art galleries to be seen here in Berlin and we have already decided that we will be coming back to Germany for a more extended stay.

We have planned to go on the tour bus tomorrow and check out the DDR museum, walk the top of the Brandenburger Tor and also the Victory hcolumn.

Having been exposed to the World War Two memorabilia on our tour of Russia and Northern capitals tour in 2012. We have mostly kept away from that line of sightseeing this trip.

We alighted from the tour bus in the dark although it was only 4:30 pm and strolled the beautiful Christmas markets near Kaiser Wilhelm-Gedachtniskirche.

The cityscape around this area that leads to where we are staying is lit up with Christmas lights all down the centre of the wide boulevards and buildings lining them, it’s a remarkable scene and truly glad we got to see it.

Back home it’s bath, clothes washing and checking out the map for our day tomorrow before bed, oh and a beer too, this time from the supermarket.

Our last day in Berlin and we headed off to catch the bus earlier than the last two mornings after a breakfast at the hotel, which to be fair was good value at under 10€ each.

We got to the DDR museum and enjoyed a few good hours there. This is well worth the visit and plenty of information and had fun sitting in the Trabbi car with a simulator drive around East Germany, quite a few lol moments.

Next stop was to climb the dome on the Brandenburger Tor which is free, but when we got there we found out you had to make a booking 😦 oh well next time.

So onto the victory column and it’s now 3 pm and definitely the day is closing in, it’s dark by 4 pm now. 270 steps lead us to the top with some great views all round the city.

A little out of my comfort zone but doing ok till the wind picked up and I was quite happy to make my way back down again.

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We took the bus round to the uniqlo store where I bought a neck muff like the one James bought from there the day before. It’s so much warmer and less scratchy than my Marino neck muff. Unfortunately on the way home I lost my grey beret but never mind I quite fancy one of those wool hats with the fur Pom poms on.

We stopped at Lidl a local supermarket and bought a six pack of water, a bottle of red, 3 cans of beer a large packet of chips and a bar of chocolate for €7.49, what a bargain.

We’ve really enjoyed Berlin again and definitely will be back. So so so much to do here.

Had our our private seating area on the train which with glass doors and windows on both sides gave us a terrific view of the countryside as we travelled from Berlin to Hamburg.

Fairly quick trip at about 1 hour 40 minutes and we arrived to snow/rain to a pretty ordinary part of the city as we walked to our accommodation just minutes away.

Once settled there we went off exploring and found that though we are on the wrong side of the tracks it’s only about 100 metres to the right side and some great historical buildings and Christmas markets stretching for quite some distance.

Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany and a big port city.

The Rathaus or council building is a big WOW and hoping to make the tour on Friday before heading black to Frankfurt.

James got his hair cut by a guy who travelled from Ghana at 23 on his own.

His parents were surprised when he called them to tell them he was in Germany! Umm yeah you think… He’s now 51.

Having a shared kitchenette at our hotel with only one other room we went and bought a few things to have over the next few days.

We spent the one whole day we had in Hamburg just walking around the city, there was plenty of things to see and lots of markets all through the streets and along the waterfront.

We walked around the indoor botanical gardens, waterfront parks, bombed cathedral ruins and had a pretty full day of it.

Back at our kitchen we cooked up chilli con carne with the rest of a baguette we’d bought earlier and had fresh fruit salad and yogurt after.

Our train to Frankfurt on the 15 th (our grandsons 9th birthday) wasn’t till nearly 3:30 pm so we packed up and left the big back pack in a locker at the station and headed off for our tour of the Rathaus which was spectacular. 647 rooms is pretty big and obviously we only saw a handful but really impressive.

We strolled around after the tour and were quite ready to sit down on the train when it was time to leave for Frankfurt. We didn’t see everything but we enjoyed our time.

Our wonderful friends Andrea and Thomas met us at the station and after a quick visit to Aldi we were home, eating dinner and drinking wine swapping stories of each couples past week.

It was a very sad farewell for us when the next morning they dropped us off so we could catch our train to Munich and our next adventures.

It was a very scenic and friendly trip to Munich as we shared our private compartment on the train with a lovely couple from the USA who were on their way to Nuremberg to catch up with friends for the weekend. They are based in Brussels and have an interesting life travelling the world as he works with NATO.

Now that we’re experienced with the German public transport it didn’t take us long to find our local train then bus needed to our hotel.

After settling in we went for a walk and found a shop to buy a few things and a Greek restaurant where we enjoyed a great meal before heading back to hotel for clothes washing, baths, internet searching and sleep.

It snowed most of the next day which makes everything pretty and we had a massive day walking around the city starting at Marienplatz. So many beautiful buildings etc that the day went fairly quickly and it was dark by the time we arrived back at our hotel.

Sooo Monday the 18th December was our day for Neuschwanstein Castle.

We had an early start leaving our hotel just on 7am. It was still dark but we were excited and looking forward to a great day.

It didn’t disappoint. Our tour was through Mikes bike tours, not that we took a bike, but a very comfortable coach along with 44 other people we had several great stops along the way. One to see King Ludwigs palace called Linderhof where he spent most of his remaining days and was found dead at 40 in the lake. The super enchanting town Oberammergau and of course the biggie Neuschwanstein.

Everything about this day was superb and the guide Sigmund was fantastic.

We ate the best apple strudel ever in Oberammergau and strolled the snowy streets taking in all the cute as a chocolate box buildings, lots of shops selling quality souvenirs and goods plus some lovely cafes and bakeries.

The scenery on the way was outstanding, with the Bavarian fields,villages, forests and alps all covered in icing sugar snow.

The Castle itself is set in the most exquisite setting and now having seen it wrapped in its winter coat will definitely be back to see it in all its other seasonal glory, whether that be spring, summer or autumn it sure to be a pleaser.

The bus left at 9 am in the morning and it was after 7pm when we returned to Munich. We went to Marienplatz and had fish and chips at the Christmas market before heading back to our hotel. Tired but happy yet again.

Tuesday 19th December, wow Christmas is so close and it’s really weird we have seen a trillion Christmas trees, decorations, drunk gluhwein, ate every kind of German Christmas food and gingerbread and we still don’t have a Christmas tree or decoration of our own or bought and wrapped a Christmas present.

We decided to use our last day of our German rail pass and go to Nuremberg for the day. WHAT A CITY! steeped in history and still with quite a bit of their walled city fortifications in place and a magnificent castle at one end of town this place is a spectacular eyeful for tourists. We spent several hours going through the castle and surrounding areas, photos just don’t do these places justice and every now and again I’d love to get a drone shot. :

The markets we glided through as we are back here on a stopover on the way to Prague. I did see there are some dungeons and a toy museum which also could be a couple of completely different sites to visit.

Pretty much called it a day as the afternoon started to settle into its closure and once we hopped off our local bus near our hotel ducked into an Italian restaurant right next door for some pasta before settling in to repack our bags and prepare for our move to next hotel as we meet the group we will be travelling with tomorrow night on our eight night Cosmos tour.

We look forward to sharing some time with other travellers for a few days.

After a day doing not too much except the Deutsches Museum and moving to the hotel our tour was leaving from it seemed to be 6pm and time to meet the tour director and other tour members for a quick run down on a few housekeeping issues for the trip. After the quick meeting James and I headed back to the Greek restaurant close by for our last meal. They treated us to a nip of ouzo at the end of our meal and wished us safe travels so that was a pleasant end to our stay in Munich.

GERMANY, 30th NOVEMBER- 7th DECEMBER 2017

GERMANY.

How can you possibly explain how much you appreciate people getting out of their beds and picking you up from an airport before it’s even sunrise!

Our plan had been to call Andrea and Thomas once we had our bags so they didn’t have to wait for us unnecessarily at the airport, but after we had picked up our bags and went through to the departure area to call them we were thrilled to see the beautiful face of Andrea waiting for us.

After big hugs we went and met Thomas at their super flash Tesla car and drove to their equally gorgeous home, stopping on the way to buy fresh out of the oven rolls and pretzels for a traditional German breakfast.

Along with the rolls, there was cold meats, cheeses, salad and grapes and coffee!

Having flown overnight on Cathay Pacific in premium Economy, with decent seats and a champagne and a couple of sleeping tablets I felt pretty rested, although James said he didn’t have such a great sleep and he’d had 4 tablets!

But when Andrea and Thomas said, hey it’s looking good outside, contrary to weather reports let’s go drive up the mountain and see if the snow has stayed on the mountain, we couldn’t get in their car fast enough.

Unbelievably not only had the snow stayed, it snowed while we walked through the forest to the restaurant for hot chocolate.

The scenery was pure Christmas card magic. And the snow on the tree branches was just so pretty, some reminded us of coral.

We couldn’t have been more excited and thrilled, it really doesn’t normally snow till January so for this to happen on the last day of November and our first day here, was like our dream come true.

Back home and a bowl of homemade chestnut soup inside us, we had a little rest till we were called to get ready to go to the local town Christmas market, it is on only one weekend a year, from the Thursday till the Sunday and it just happened today was the week it was on.

It was an easy walk and we started in the medieval part of the market where the stall holders were dressed in costume.

Totally delightful and after a few different warm wines and little treats we were rewarded with a little bit more snow.

What a top day.

Day two, we went walking through the town with Thomas before meeting Andrea who was at the dentist.

The town is so quaint, a real village atmosphere, with plenty of old Tudor style homes and a lake that freezes enough for ice skating.

That afternoon we drove into Frankfurt for the Christmas markets there.

They are huge and this year boasts the tallest Christmas tree.

We caught up with friends of Andrea and Thomas’s, Christian and Petra. A lovely couple who were also good enough to speak in English with us.

We were there for quite some hours as there are so many stalls and things to see.

Four tired but happy people hit bed that night.

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Day three, a beautiful drive through the country to Marburg where we visited the old castle and Christmas markets. Marburg is yet another gorgeous old village.

Andrea and Thomas hadn’t been together before either so it was nice to do something new for them as well.

They had friends coming over for dinner Uwe and Biata so we all helped get things ready for the cheese fondue dinner.

Another wonderful couple with great humour and conversation. James bailed at 1am and I at 2am and it was 3pm before the guests left. So it was a sleep in the next morning the beginning of day four and we woke to snow falling out our window.

Thomas dropped James and I off at Hessenpark, an amazing place where old buildings from around the province have been bought to make up a village display. There are people showing how things were back in different eras and just for this day only the entrance fee was half and included their Christmas markets as well.

We had such a great time for hours, going through the different buildings, looking at the markets, just being in awe of the beautiful scenery with fresh snow falling all day. We had warmed beer, hot chocolate, potato pancakes, soup and fresh made hot crisps.

Thomas picked us up and at home we decided we didn’t need to go out again and would enjoy just relaxing on the couch. We had another lovely healthy meal and we used one of the vinaigrettes we bought at the markets on the salad, then it was snacks and gluweine while we played scrabble. James and I rank amateurs compared to Andrea, but it was an enjoyable way to pass the evening as we chatted and laughed.

We have been humbled by Andrea and Thomas’s hospitality and they keep making it harder to think about leaving by offering such great plans of things to do together.

Day five, and we had decided on a trip to Strasbourg all together, but after a late start we decided a trip to Mainz and a shopping trip so James could buy better gloves and an extra pair of warm pants each was a better use of the day.

We also got a SIM card from Aldi so hopefully when all the registration etc goes through we’ll have internet when we’re on the road.

The shopping trip was successful in not only that we got what we needed quickly but at a great discount price due to Andrea and Thomas knowing the salesman.

Onto Mainz and after parking the luxurious Tesla at a charging station, we walked into the pretty centre of Mainz and it’s lovely old worldly charm and gorgeous markets. As usual Thomas and Andrea introduced us to more traditional German fare and as usual we all ate too much and after several pleasant hours four fat and happy bellies packed into the car for the drive home.

We had another home cooked meal at home and an early night for us all.

Day six and we are still here enjoying the hospitality and great company, we have decided to leave the suitcases here and come back for them on our way to Munich.

This way we will get to see our friends once more and we know our belongings will be safe.

So the morning was spent getting the SIM card registered, booking our first return day trip to Cologne and I finally finished and posted my blog on Hong Kong.

We had an amazing lunch at home before going into Bad Homburg just after three for a walk through the park and shopping precinct, also to walk some of our lunch calories off too. What a beautiful town! Massive old mansions surround the outside of the park and it was a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

We had dinner booked at The Lame Donkey for dinner where they serve great schnitzel and other traditional food and drinks are on offer as part of the menu. The restaurant is in huge Tudor style building and the meal, drinks and atmosphere were a winning combination.

Another great day here in Germany.

Day seven and we use our rail pass for the first day.

From the local station into Frankfurt and on the ICE train to Cologne. The day all went smoothly and Cologne train station was right next door to the amazing Cathedral, where we also went to the first Christmas markets of the day.

Cologne lies along a river so there is quite a tourist trade from there as well with the river cruises so popular these days.

We discovered a little Christmas train express which for 10€ took you around to 4 of the cities markets, a real bonus as there would have been too much walking involved otherwise.

James photobombing Saint Nickolas.

Each Market had its own theme and so although some foods are available at all the markets there have been a few different crafts etc on display.

As the afternoon closes in quickly and the lights come on throughout the stalls and overhead, a real festive atmosphere envelopes everyone and everything and the specialness of it all sinks in. This was why we wanted to come here and what we wanted to experience, haven’t been disappointed at all.

We made it safely back to Andrea and Thomas’s for our last evening meal with them and their son Dennis arrived just as we were going to bed, was great to meet him.

The next day it would be time to say goodbye to ur friends and use the rest of our rail pass to discover more of Germany and their world famous Christmas markets.

HONG KONG, 23RD-30TH NOVEMBER 2017

Hong Kong, Big, Bright, modern,traditional, and everything in between. Loved it.

We landed in Hong Kong and it was one of the smoothest airport transitions we’ve had. Hong Kong is fairly high tech and it was like magic, everything just worked.

We bought a SIM card and it instantly worked. We bought an octopus card and took the express train into Kowloon train station where you link up with a free bus shuttle to your hotel.

Our hotel room is more luxurious than we’ve had the last month and there’s a few extra facilities and amenities to make it all a little more comfortable. And I’m sure the power works 24/7 here.

After unpacking a little we were keen to get out and explore a little.

We walked for too long to be honest and we were pretty tired when we returned home to rest. Saying that we passed a little cafe about 100 metres from our hotel that looked great for breakfast.

Waking up slowly and getting our internet fix over with, we headed to that little cafe and had an awesome breakfast and I had my first cup of coffee for quite some time. Apart from a few sips of James over the last month and 2 at Buzz cafe in Coron I’ve not had my own due to not liking the brewed style mostly on offer.

We had also passed a little hair salon also close by and I was keen to get a cut as my hair literally felt like straw after all that swimming and sun in The Philippines.

I’ve never had a hair dresser like it. So casual with how he cut my hair not even combing it down properly smooth before cutting. In the end after he blow dried it, it looked pretty good, but to be honest it’s a bit of a hack job and my darling Susan will sort it out I’m sure when I’m back in Australia.

The hotel here runs a free shuttle service so we hopped on and got off for Mong Kok station.

Where we decided to take the train over to Hong Kong Island to check out where we were meeting Angela and Duncan at 4pm that afternoon. These two are legends we met on our Cruise earlier this year. They lived here for 20 years and gave us so much information on what to do here and then coincidentally were here on a port stop on another cruise!

We checked out our meeting point on Lockhart street and then took an Uber up to Victoria Peak.

Great views to be had here and we were so lucky as Angela had told us about a one hour loop walk to do.

Finding ourselves going down instead of around we asked a couple passing if they knew if we were going the right way. “No” they said but come with us we’re on our way to do it now. We spent a great hour walking and chatting with them as they pointed out landmarks along the way. It was a great time and we’re so grateful for the company and conversation.

Finding ourselves going down instead of around we asked a couple passing if they knew if we were going the right way. “No” they said but come with us we’re on our way to do it now. We spent a great hour walking and chatting with them as they pointed out landmarks along the way. It was a great time and we’re so grateful for the company and conversation.

We took the bus down to meet our friends and we were just a few minutes late but all good and we enjoyed another hour and a half having a few drinks and catching up before they had to start heading back to their ship.

It was fantastic to see them and to see someone familiar, with Andrew, Jung Won and Jett being our last ones in Korea.

We stayed at the pub after they left and the manager came over to chat, she was from the Philippines believe it or not and not the first Filipino we had met that day. We had a great chat about her life there and now.

Once we left there it was time to think about food, we’d only had breakfast and our drinks at the pub all day. We found a Thai restaurant close by and had a great meal. Would you believe we started talking to another couple who came in and she was Filipino and he was American, another couple joined in and they were identical to the other couple in that the man was American and wife Filipino.

Everyone waved us off when we left and we took the train back over to Kowloon to Mong Kok station and walked home, stopping to talk to some woman and their dogs who were so spoilt, they even had a dog pram for them and of course they were Filipino!

A great first day in Hong Kong.

Our second day we again didn’t leave hotel till around 10 am to go for breakfast at our little cafe.

We then took the hotel shuttle down to the waterfront where we bought tickets for The Star ferry, one hour harbour tour.

Weather was cooler and were glad for our warmer clothing.

The commentary was just enough without being boring and it was an enjoyable hour.

We decided to walk back to our hotel via Kowloon park and Nathan road.

Had one stop at the store selling all things Chinese and I was able to purchase some more of the magic potion that is great for stomach upsets.

We were tired when we arrived home and only ventured out to eat dinner almost next to the hotel. Delicious Chinese and we shared a big bottle of Chinese beer, which was good!

Another good day.

Day three and another later start, back to our cafe for breakfast and then walked downtown to go to uniqlo. We intended to go on to the waterfront and catch a couple of local ferries but after our shopping we headed back for a rest before heading out again in the evening. It was Sunday night and in one of the main streets it became like a buskers paradise etc just like you’d find in most cities during the day, but here it was Sunday evening.

We ended up back at our little cafe for dinner and we started chatting with a lovely young local couple Katherine and Alex whom live near by. They gave us a few good tips for other local restaurants and day trips.

We left the restaurant together and walked up the road till they waved us off at our hotel

This is what we love, chatting to locals and getting their tips and views on life.

Day four, actually got to breakfast by 10 am! Chatted with a family from Sweden who also go to the cafe every morning they said.

We took the hotels free shuttle downtown to the waterfront and caught the ferry over to Central station, HK island. Our idea was to catch a ferry to Lamma island but we missed the ferry by “ that much! Next one wasn’t for two hours so we decided to ditch that idea and take the bus to Stanley. Great bus trip, excellent views and freaky trip when on top deck of us right up front.

We walked the markets, the Boulevard, had a snack of dim sum and took a walk around a track that lead us to a little beach, two Buddhist temples,

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viewing platforms and a park with wild pigs, ( which we thought was a bit of a joke until we came across them).

Walking back to the beachfront of Stanley through residential area and bus back to Central. Caught the train to Mong Kok station on Kowloon and walked home via a delicious meal of Vietnamese food.

Better have an early night so we can leave earlier than today to get that ferry to Lamma island.

Oh and our breakfast cafe is shut tomorrow so they told us of another place to go. Tick, tick another great day in Honkers.

Day five, having our usual lie in we decided we best not miss that ferry to Lamma island and headed down to the waterfront to catch a ferry, stopping just long enough to devour a McDonald’s breakfast which to be fair is cheap and they make a flat white as well.

Once off the first ferry at Central we boarded the ferry to Lamma island and were quite surprised at one, how long a ride it was and two, how much bigger the island was than we surmised from seeing it from on top of The Peak on our first day.

Lamma island turned out to be a very pleasant experience.

After arriving at the ferry terminal at Sok Kwu Wan and walking past the sea front with the different restaurants offering some great offers on seafood, we took the track to the other side of the island to where the other ferry terminal back to Central is.

The walk/trek to Yung Shue Wan was extremely pretty and interesting with plenty of side paths to explore.

Yung Shue Wan is the more eclectic side of the town with a little slice of Old hippie and new hipster vibe going on, mixed with considerable old traditional charm.

There were old villages, beaches, pavilions, look outs,and great scenery along the way making it well worth an add onto your itinerary of Hong Kong.

Stopping back in town for an late lunch/afternoon tea meal of noodles we arrived back at our hotel for a few hours break before grabbing the free shuttle down to waterfront again to watch the nightly light show.

AQuite a few of the big buildings along the waterfront have some really impressive Christmas lights on them so when the actual light show started it was well to be honest a bit ho hum. Had we not made the effort we would have always wondered if we’d missed something special as it is we enjoyed seeing the Christmas lights around the city so the trip out was a success in that regard.

We had so enjoyed our Vietnamese dinner the night before we bought a serve of takeaway spring rolls to eat back in our room, we think they’re the best we’ve had anywhere and you wrap them in a lettuce leaf to eat them. Along with a individual airline size Aussie red, dinner was done and dusted and we went to sleep for our last time in Hong Kong.

Day six,

Our usual cafe gave us a pleasant final breakfast and the waiter even made me a flat white as he had been on a working holiday in Melbourne. They waved us off like old friends and we were again reminded of why we like to establish a rapport with local eateries by finding one we like and visiting frequently.

Some may say it’s not adventurous of us, but it gives us a sense of being part of a community and that is what makes slow travel appealing to us.

Hong Kong does this remarkable thing of being able to check in and drop your bags off at several of the train stations, great if like us you have a long wait between hotel check out and your plane leaving. Of course we could have left our bags at the hotel and gone back up to get them later but our plan was to spend the day over on Hong Kong Island once we checked out at 2 pm.

Having all that sorted we headed to Hong Kong park and a little late afternoon lunch.

We had so enjoyed our Vietnamese dinner the night before we bought a serve of takeaway spring rolls to eat back in our room, we think they’re the best we’ve had anywhere and you wrap them in a lettuce leaf to eat them. Along with a individual airline size Aussie red, dinner was done and dusted and we went to sleep for our last time in Hong Kong.

Strolling back to the waterfront as the sky darkened into evening then night, as the lights came on and the working day over for the locals, we found ourselves a little rooftop bar, celebrating happy hour and ordered ourselves a couple of N Z reds to pass the time for our last moments of this city.

Hong Kong has been a delight, the city is an eclectic mix of big bright lights and modern skyscrapers while still holding on to some old traditions and its working, just wish they’d all walk on one side of the path, walking the streets here is like playing body dodgems.

Next stop Frankfurt, Germany.

MANILA, THE PHILIPPINES, 21st-23rd NOVEMBER 2017

Sometimes travelling is hard work like the day we travelled to Manila from Puerto Princesa. James was back from the dentist and our flight was scheduled for 3:40 pm. We had already had a message that the flight would leave an hour late.

It was also stipulated they wanted us at the airport 3 hours before the flight!! This is a domestic flight we’re talking about.

So thinking ok we’ll not have lunch and grab something there we arrive at the ridiculously asked for time and guess what? It’s delayed again and then again! We ended up at the airport for 5 hours before we got on the plane.

We had decided to stay close to the airport and are glad we did as traffic in Manila is horrendous.

Our stay was at Alicia apartments less than a kilometre from the airport and as only opened four months ago was although fairly bland was comfortable enough. We were a little weary as it was clearly in a shantytown village.

Luckily the new presidents extremely hard stance on crime has cleaned up the city considerably and violence seems to be at an all time low. No beggars and we were once again impressed with the friendly locals.

For our one day in Manila we took the advice of several Filipinos we met and took an Uber into Intramuros which means inside the walls. This area has some of the buildings from the Spanish era here and there were quite a few that were reminiscent of our visit to Cartagena on our cruise.

We took a horse and carriage ride for an hour and got some great ideas of where to go for the rest of our day.

We went and visited gardens, the fort and museum of Jose Rizal. Had a yummy lunch and walked through lots of character full streets.

Not sure if there’s a building code here or not! I’d say it’s a safe guess NOT, when you see some of the structures around. It’s truly surprising they are inhabited by families and trades and haven’t fallen over in a domino effect.

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It was a great end to our month here and we left the next morning with one million photos and great memories.

Next stop Hong Kong.