Found 13 blog posts for the month: July 2017

London: The Countdown

I arrived back in London on Monday and took the train from Stansted Airport to Liverpool Station. I did something I hadn't done in a while - I went out and played Pokemon Go. Legendary raids have been released, meaning Lugia and Articuno can be found in boss raids in gyms all around the city. There was one near Liverpool Station, so I wandered down to see if anyone would show up. Sure enough, even though it was Monday, a small group had gathered to fight the Articuno, but I was unsuccessful in catching it. There were a couple close by, so I followed them around, dragging my luggage with me like an idiot, but neither raid was successful. The District line was in chaos due to maintenance and closures leftover from the weekend, but I managed to make it home for a haircut and quick shower before heading back out to Chelsea, where I met Alice for an incredible dining experience at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Full writeup in my food blog!

I was more prepared on Tuesday. I joined the PoGo London Discord chat and met with some fellow players near Notting Hill. I followed them around for a good 6 hours during the day, going from the west of Hyde Park and finishing near Marylebone Station. Of the ten or so raids we did, I managed to catch one Articuno and one Lugia exactly, so it was at least a fruitful day. I decided to call it a day and met Theo for dinner at Victoria Station. Afterwards, we saw Wicked the musical at the Apollo Theatre. I really enjoyed it! It was a slow start but quickly got better; Defying Gravity sent chills down my spine. The actors were all incredibly talented - magnificent voices - and the costumes and set design was equally as amazing. I'm so glad I got to see a West End show before I left London.

I met Mash for lunch out in Aldgate East, and then tried to find a quiet place so I could do some work on my laptop. I wandered over to the Barbican Centre in the hopes I could find a spot to sit down, but it turns out Kings College London were having their graduation celebrations there. I snuck in to the basement and swiped a glass of juice and some canapés before leaving. It was getting late, so I took the gross unairconditioned Central line over to Queensway and got some delicious char siu and roast duck rice from Four Seasons.

I met with Daniela and Sean for dinner at Putney Bridge yesterday and Jono for lunch at Strutton Ground Market; the rest of the week will just be catching up with people. It's all happened so fast, but I will be leaving London to work in Toronto, Canada with the team at Ubisoft Toronto. My work permit was approved last Friday and my flights were booked today, so it's all official now.

It's strange how curve balls can completely derail your plans; last year I had applied to a dozen or so companies all around the UK and Canada in the hopes someone would employ me and sponsor a visa for me. Both Ubisoft Toronto and Montreal were interested in me, but had a recruitment freeze on, so couldn't complete the hire. That was when I decided I would try for the UK youth migrant visa, but that meant I needed to get to the UK before I turned 31. Thus, I booked all my flights, sorted my life out and secured my visa for departure in January, when literally a week before I left, Ubisoft Toronto called me up to say they wanted to hire me.

Of course, I took the job. It meant that I'd have to wait 6 months for the work permit to be approved by the Canadian government, but it meant that I was free to travel around Europe while waiting. It's been an incredible time, and I couldn't have asked for a better situation. I've seen so much of Europe, but there is still so much more. I've met cool people and caught up with long lost friends as well. It will be hard to go back to working after such a long time, but I'm honestly so thankful that the job materialised when it did; it means that I don't have to sort out a bank account and social security number for the UK, I don't have to find a flat or contend with the ludicrous bureaucracy here. Ubisoft's relocation team have really taken care of me, and it will make my move quite smooth.


Edinburgh

In true Scottish hospitality, I was greeted at Edinburgh Airport with cold and rain. I didn't have long in Edinburgh, so regardless of whether it was raining, sunny, windy or tornado, I had to get out and see the city. I had a very quick run through of Edinburgh Castle, perhaps the city's most famous attraction; I was thankful for the many indoor exhibits, even if it was super busy that day. I enjoyed some whisky tasting on the castle grounds, saw the Scottish Crown Jewels, walked through the War Memorial and some of the military prisons, and visited the various batteries for some great views of the rain clouds covering the city.

The next day, I took a full day tour of the Scottish highlands; from Edinburgh to Callander, Glencoe, Fort Augustus and Blair Atholl. Our tour bus driver was an amazingly interesting person - he came dressed in his kilt, and sang to us on the bus. He'd been a soldier and had done many mountain treks and kayaking trips across the country, and I couldn't help but admire all his knowledge and talents.

The Scottish countryside reminds me very much of New Zealand. The lowlands resemble the farms around the Waikato, flat and expansive, each growing their own type of crops. As you head towards the highlands, it becomes more like the South Island, with its beautiful mountains, valleys, rivers and waterfalls. The forces that shaped Scotland are of course very similar to those that shaped New Zealand, and as long as we continue to have good conservation laws, we can enjoy this natural beauty of many years to come. At the start of the day, the clouds were low and misty, but towards lunch, a few spots of blue began to peek through the grey.

We reached Fort Augustus by Loch Ness just after 1pm, and I got some delicious fried fish, onion rings and the Scottish national soda Irn Bru from a nearby takeaway before hot-tailing it to the cruise boat. The boat floated on the water for a good hour or so, and we learned about the mysteries of the lake, as well as the sonar system they use to map the topography. The area around Loch Ness is full of peat, and as the rains fall and water runs into the lake, it takes with it this dark sediment and deposits it into the lake, making it dark coloured. Visibility is almost nil in the water; water hovers around 4C or 5C throughout the year. All these factors make it difficult to look for any large animals that may be lurking in the water.

It was late by the time we got back to Edinburgh, and after dinner, I wandered around the Old Town, admiring the sunset hitting the castle and various buildings. I wish I could have stayed longer; there's more of Edinburgh to see, and today, as I sit at Edinburgh Airport, it's brilliantly sunny and finally a proper summer here (go figure). Edinburgh Fringe would have been really fun to attend next month, especially if it's bigger and better than Wellington's Fringe Festival. Next time!


Dublin

In classic Irish style, I arrived from sunny Norway into cold, wet and windy Dublin. It wasn't too bad though, it would have still been around 15C. I met John at his apartment and we went for dinner at a local pub.

I was up early the next day to get on a bus tour to Giant's Causeway, all the way up north in Northern Ireland. The weather turned out to be magnificent, with blue skies and sun all around. The area is quite amazing by itself, there's some beautiful bays overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean towards Scotland. There weren't too many people as well, which meant I could admire the beauty of the area at my own pace and leisure. The stones weren't as large as I was expecting, but still a decent size - perhaps half a metre in diameter. Curiously enough, they were almost all hexagonal, probably as a result of the peculiar volcanic activity that created the area.

We had lunch nearby at a place called the Barn, which did a pretty mean Steak and Guinness Pie, then we continued on to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Originally used by fishermen to bridge a 20m long and 23m tall gap between the mainland and an island where they would place their nets to catch salmon, the bridge is now a national heritage site with strict rules regulating how many people can cross the bridge at any one time. From the island, you can easily see Rathlin Island and Scotland.

The rest of the tour took us to the Dark Hedges, a filming location from Game of Thrones, where a narrow road is flanked by a long row of trees. It didn't really have much significance to me since I've never watched Game of Thrones. It had also started raining, but as it was our last stop for the day, it wasn't too much of an issue. By the time we got back to Dublin, it was fine.

Yesterday I spent walking around the city, visiting Trinity College, Dublin Castle and the Guinness Storehouse. John's girlfriend Monica took me around the castle area, showing me all these cool little shops and food areas; I really enjoyed the vibe around the area. It's as lively and jovial as many other European cities I've been too, just not on the same scale. The Guinness Storehouse was pretty interesting, and I was given a free pint to "enjoy", which I managed about 1/5th of before ditching it and bee-lining out of the rooftop terrace. I met Amnon and John for dinner at Token, a bar with a dozen video game arcades and pinball machines inside. We played Tetris, Space Invaders, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Metal Slug and a couple of the pinball machines. I really wanted to play the Simpsons Game, but it was always busy so never got the chance.

It's my final weekend of travelling for a while, which I will spend Scotland. It's slowly dawning on me that the real world approaches - very fast! - and that I'll have to become an adult again.


Bergen

Stockholm to Bergen was extremely early in the morning, but since we're so far north, the sun had already risen when I left Rafael's apartment at 4am. By the time I got to Bergen, it was close to 9am, and I managed to contact my accommodation who said my room was ready to check in to. Excellent!

It was pretty wet that day. I had lunch at the seafood market - it had such an appetising smell that I couldn't resist. I also made it up the funicular to Fløien, with a magnificent view across the city. The rain was in and out during the day, but that didn't deter me too much - it pretty much just felt like home in Wellington. I walked around the various tracks and went up to the Skomakerdiket Lake, then took the funicular back down. I was cold and tired, so decided to take a nap back in my room.

I had an action packed day the next day. I took the train from Bergen to Voss, an hour train ride through some of the most scenic parts of Norway's fjords and lakes. The weather was still slightly inclement, but the low clouds hanging under the hills made it so majestic. The rain had also made the waterfalls that little more spectacular, but more importantly, the rivers were much more fun for white water rafting!

After suiting up and getting our safety briefing, we went to a nearby spot to practice our moves, as well as a forced swim through the rapids to make sure we knew what to do if we capsized. I'll tell you now, the water was incredibly cold; it would have definitely been unbearable if we didn't have wetsuits. Our bus driver (a guy from Turangi in New Zealand!) took us further downstream to begin our actual rafting. What a rough river it was, but so much fun. There were tons of exciting and thrilling moments, much more than the time I went rafting down the Wairoa River. Some of the drops were incredibly high too, but we all survived without capsizing. We had one man overboard from our boat, and we also plucked a swimmer from another boat in a dramatic rescue. I had so much fun on this one.

After a nice warm lunch, I was dropped off at the Voss Wind Tunnel, an indoor skydiving building. It's quite different to outdoor skydiving, as you can imagine, since you're not strapped to anyone. You control your own movements (to an extent) and I found it quite difficult to figure out what was going on, and ended up flying like a potato most of the time. The sensation was quite thrilling though, and I still had fun, but deep down inside I was disappointed that I couldn't maintain my flight unassisted.

The sun is out today, and it's actually really nice seeing Bergen in two completely different lights. I also realised that Bergen was the inspiration for Arendelle in Disney's Frozen! I wandered down to the aquarium and chilled out in the park for a bit, but there's not much else to see in Bergen. I really do want to come back one day though, Bergen is the closest airport to the famous Trolltunga, and there's tons of other awesome activities to do around here, and also around Norway - I didn't even get to go to Oslo! I also don't even know if I'll come back during summer or winter, as the country is completely different. Despite it being horribly expensive, I still had a good time.


Stockholm

After arriving in Stockholm, I met up with Rafael and Erika, who took me around the sights of the local neighbourhood. We went up to a roof bar that overlooks the island that they're staying on, and on a cloudless day with the sun far from setting at 8pm, the view of Stockholm was stunning. There were even a few hot air balloons floating around - that would have been a great idea if I was made of money. We continued walking around and ended up at Mariatorget, a park on a cliff with a view of the north side of the island that looks towards the city hall and city centre. The warm hues of the sunset bathed the city in such an artistic light, it was a beautiful sight to see.

Yesterday, I ventured out by myself into the city's main sights, visiting Gamla Stan and the Royal Palace, the Modern Museum, Nordic Museum and Vasa Museum. I found a kayak rental, so hired a kayak for an hour and paddled around the strait between the museum island, near the Royal Djurgarden. When I started, the sky was completely blue and it was pretty hot out, but as I neared the end of the hour, the clouds and wind had come in.

After lunch (which was the traditional Swedish meatballs!), the weather had started to turn cold, so I took a tour of the Stockholm Subway. Several stations have some very interesting art installations, and since they're inside the subway itself, a single ticket is sufficient to view them all since you never need to exit the subway. My tour took me around:

  1. Kungstradgarden: Full of red and green bands, with some impressive Scandinavian statues
  2. T Centralen: Blue and white leaf patterns
  3. Radhuset: Archaic cavern with a large stone column
  4. Solna Centrum: A huge red and green mural depicting the destruction of the environment and nature
  5. Thorildsplan: Pixel art, including icons from Pacman, Space Invaders and Mario
  6. Universitetet: Scientific murals and artistic wordsearches
  7. Tekniska Hogskolan: Large geometric shapes with a nature theme
  8. Stadion: Art for the 1912 Olympic games, with a rainbow on the bumps and crevasses in the bedrock of the station

As I exited the subway, it was indeed raining, so I went back to Rafael's to chill out for a bit. I managed to see all I wanted to see, except IKEA, and I didn't want to stay out too late since I had an early start this morning. Next stop: Norway!


Malmo

I took the bus from Copenhagen to Malmo very early on Friday morning. I tried my hardest to stay awake for the famous Oresund Bridge that emerges from underground on Peberholm Island, then stretches over the Oresund Strait over to Sweden, but I was just too tired. I met Glen at Malmo Centralstation, then followed him to Ubisoft Massive, where I also caught up with Ricardo.

I walked around central Malmo in the morning. It was a little chilly, but certainly nothing like what New Zealand is currently experiencing. I even managed to get a slice of the famous Swedish Prinsesstårta, a layered sponge cake with a marzipan icing finish. I met Glen for lunch with some of his Ubisoft colleagues, and then I borrowed Ricardo's bike for the afternoon.

It was actually the perfect weather for biking around, since I warmed up quite quickly as I explored the city. I followed the canal from Ubisoft Massive up to the Centralstation, then continued further north to the Turning Torso, perhaps Malmo's most famous landmark. It's a residential apartment block that looks like it's been twisted 90 degrees, and stands at 180m, Scandanavia's tallest structure. The area it overlooks is a really nice park that stretches down the coast, so I was happy to bike up and down that for a few hours. I accidentally biked into the nudist area too, and was quick to u-turn my two wheels out of there.

I got back into the centre of town and rode around Malmo Castle when it started to rain. I took a breather inside the cafe and tried to wait out the rain; it didn't stop and I was getting a bit cold, so I biked back to Glen's apartment and chilled out for a bit there. We went for dinner with Ricardo to Lilla Torg, or "Little Square" in Swedish, a vibrant and happening quarter of town with tons of restaurants and people out enjoying the summer evening.

I took it easy this morning, but met Ricardo and his wife back in town for a final coffee with Glen. We also hired a paddle boat and spent 30 minutes cruising up and down the canal before I had to hot tail it to the Centralstation to catch my train to Stockholm. It was such a beautiful day in Malmo, and the perfect temperature too. In many respects, it's much like Wellington - great cafe and food culture, very multicultural, small enough to walk everywhere, the only real difference is that it's flat, and great to bike around!


Legoland and Copenhagen

We were up extremely early on Wednesday morning to get to Berlin Tegel Airport for a flight to Brussels and then to Billund, Denmark. Why Billund? Really only one reason - Legoland!

I remember trying to book transport to get to Billund. Theo and I mulled over all our options and needed to get our timing perfect. We were mildly worried about our transport from Billund to Copenhagen - there didn't seem to be many prepaid options available, and it seemed like any option we took would be a 3 or 4 hour trip. We decided to do as much as we could and leave the rest to fate. We hoped that it was worth the cost and hassle of getting up at 4am.

I remember my first reaction upon entering Legoland's Mini Land - my jaw dropped and my eyes widened. I couldn't believe how amazing all the models were. We passed by a very familiar model castle - Neuschwanstein Castle - which we had visited mere days ago; there were some magnificent Star Wars moment captured in Lego, as well as a massive X Wing, a fully working canal, Amsterdam, various Danish landmarks and towns, Mount Rushmore, Cape Canaveral and tons more.

We went on some rides as well. By far the best one was the Polar Express, a short but fast coaster, with a 5m free fall drop! We went twice, and on the second time, we posed for the camera. I love the picture so much; I'm doing the Asian victory pose and Theo is fast asleep. It's so good. We also went on the Ninjago Ride, the Temple, the Dragon and the Haunted House. We wanted to go on the X-treme Racers but Theo was too tall for that.

I can say with certainty that Legoland met expectation and it was definitely worth it. I enjoyed myself immensely, and we even made it to Copenhagen safely.

We took it easy today, exploring the big sights of Copenhagen. Of course, we visited the Little Mermaid statue, with hundreds of other tourists clambering about on the rocks trying to get the perfect Instagram photo. We also went to Rosenburg Castle, the Kastellet, St Alban's Church, Frederik's Church with the massive dome that we ascended, and Nyhavn. After lunch, I said my goodbyes to Theo - he's back to London while I continue on to Sweden tomorrow.

It's been so nice having a companion on my travels, and with Theo's departure, it only means that my time of travelling is coming to a swift end. I can't believe it! It's been such an amazing five months.


Berlin

The overnight train from Munich to Berlin was a disaster and I regret it so much. The reservation system on German trains is so weird, and the seats we initially chose said they were available but obviously not when someone came and claimed it for himself. We had to move a carriage or two down, where a bunch of eight or so guys had settled in with a lot of beer and even a funnel. We shifted again, right down to the end where the bike carriage was and that was much better, until a bunch of idiots got on and talked the entire night. It made me so angry and sleep deprived. How can these people be so inconsiderate? The bus ride from Zurich to Prague was far more tolerable.

It was rather wet when we arrived in Berlin, and the accommodation wouldn't let us check in until 2.30pm. We managed to leave our bags inside and went out to explore the city. We went to Potsdamer Platz and the Sony Centre, which was really nice because it was all indoors. We found a dessert place and I had a massive serving of dark chocolate and vanilla ice cream with cherries, very much like a Black Forest cake, but it was too much and I didn't finish it.

I was exhausted from the lack of sleep and after checking in, I had a solid nap. We resumed our wanderings of Berlin, going to Checkpoint Charlie, Gendarmenmarkt, Museum Island and up to the New Synagogue where we had dinner.

Yesterday, we visited the Jewish Memorial, Brandenburger Tor, the Berlin Wall Memorial, Alexanderplatz, the Computer Game Museum and the dome at the main parliament building. We had a few hiccups along the way with some mistaken place names and failings in checking the opening hours, but we did a lot in the day. I had been desperately trying to find a place that sells Schwartzwalderkirschetorte - Black Forest cake - but I had had no luck, and I was getting desperate. Theo called upon Twitter to see if someone knew and we went out to KaDeWe, a massive department store with a gourmet food hall. I didn't quite get my cake, but I got a slice, and that was good enough.

Overall, Berlin was okay. A few things didn't quite go our way but the city does have some really nice sights and I could see myself revisiting someday. We have been a bit inundated with war-related things and weren't too keen on seeing more, but it is so integral to Berlin's history.


Munich

It was slightly awkward checking into our accommodation in Munich; the rooms were above an Indian restaurant and had no visible reception or office, but instead it turns out the restaurant itself had the keys to our room. It wasn't quite ready for us, but that was fine, we dumped our bags and wandering around the area. We headed east towards the river and Maximilianeum, and dumped our laundry at a serviced laundromat, then followed the river south towards the Deutsches Museum. The river walk is really nice and green, and with the sun out, there were plenty of sunbathers on the rocky “beaches” by the river. We cut across to the city centre and walked around the Viktualienmarkt and Marienplatz, and went up St Peter's church for some great views of the central square. We ended up by Odeonsplatz and the Hofgarden, before heading back to pick up our laundry and have a quiet evening.

The next day, we were off to the middle of nowhere, southern Germany. We took a train to Immenstadt and then a bus to Alpsee Bergwelt, the home of 3km "rodelbahn" - an alpine coaster that snakes down the side of a mountain. It's self-controlled so you dictate the speed you're going, to a max of 40km/h, but it's incredibly fun and exhilarating. Having the track so long means it's actually a decent length of time too!

On Saturday, we covered more of Munich, visiting the massive Bavaria Statue, heading up to Konigsplatz and the museums where there was actually a music concert, then east across town to the Munich Residenz, another famous palace in Europe. We even made it to the Stadtmuseum, which had an exhibition about Munich's history. It had started to pour by the time we finished, so we headed for dinner nearby - I got the Bavarian specialty, roast pork knuckle!

Our last day in Munich was actually spent far away from Munich, at Neuschwanstein Castle, famous for being the inspiration behind Walt Disney's logo and castle at Disneyland. Our tour guide was a quick talking Italian with a semi-American accent, and a rather abrasive personality, but he told a good story about the castle's history and the circumstances of King Ludwig II and Robert Wagner. Theo and I opted to walk around the lake instead of going into the castle; it's insanely busy inside and you don't really have the chance to walk through at your own pace; you have to follow the pace of everyone else, and that was too reminiscent of my horrible experience at the Vatican museum. The German countryside is pretty, even on a cloudy day. By the time the tour group was ready to depart, it had started storming.

After a long train ride back to Munich, we mulled around the central train station before catching our overnight train to Berlin.


Salzburg

Upon arriving in Salzburg, we were greeted with a beautiful panorama of green mountains, and I could not help but play the Sound of Music soundtrack in my head - apt, because Salzburg is famous for having many of the movie's filming locations.

After checking in, we wandered down the river towards the centre of town, enjoying the magnificent view from the Museum der Moderne. We went to take the lift down to ground level but were shocked when we saw we had to pay a fee! We took the lift anyway and exited through the entrance while the ticket officer was talking to someone; we never looked back.

It's no wonder that the hills in Salzburg are alive with the sound of music, because it is also birthplace to none other than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. His image can be seen around the city, oddly enough, mostly on chocolate boxes. We walked by the house where he was born, as well as a statue in his honour, before heading to the Salzburg Castle, a stately structure overlooking the whole city. It was interesting to see how the castle had changed over the past thousand years, with extra walls, houses and fortifications being added in response to various threats from warring parties.

We had walked a lot that day, so we headed home for a nap and went out for dinner later. We took a stroll down the river front afterwards, as the evening sun dipped behind the horizon.

Yesterday, we took a train out to Werfen, about an hour south of Salzburg. Werfen also has a magnificent castle with some great views, but we were here for the largest ice caves in the world, the Eisreisenwelt. Nestled in the mountains some 1.6km above sea level, the caves are an almost constant 0C, and span 42km of which only 1km is open to the public. The shuttle to the ticket office arrived immediately as we got off the train, and after a 20m walk, a very quick gondola ride and another 20m walk, we were on top of Werfen and at the entrance to the cave.

Theo regretted forgetting his jumper very quickly. I had brought thermals along, as well as my hoodie, despite the weather outside being 26C. I lent him my hoodie while I put my thermals on, hoping it would be enough to keep the both of us warm. Armed with a kerosene lamp, we entered the caves with the tour guide.

The interior is massive and mostly made of limestone with various pools and columns of ice. There's no light in the caves, natural or electric, which explains the use of the kerosene lamps to navigate. We weren't allowed to take photos but the few of us at the back did so anyway; I don't think the photography impacts the integrity of the caves at all. The ice is a beautiful azure colour, much like what you see in glaciers, and large walls of it exhibit the characteristic banding which gives clues on how old it is. Theo and I were pretty cold by the end of it, but we survived, and it was quite an amazing experience.

We're crossing borders into Germany today, heading north from Salzburg to Munich!


Vienna II

We returned to Vienna by bus from Budapest, arriving just after noon. I met up with Sandra, whom I hadn't seen in five or so years, and she and her partner took me to Laxenburg, a tiny little township just south of the city. We walked around the castle grounds and had lunch at the cafe, and ice cream as well, then we drove all the way to the northern side of Vienna for some magnificent views of the city. It was nice to see more of the countryside and get away from the tourists.

Yesterday, Theo and I visited the Schonbrunn Palace, one of Vienna's most famous landmarks. We spent a good few hours walking around the gardens and lavish rooms. Though I've seen many palaces in my time here, there were still some things I found interesting, like the lacquer decorations and the porcelain room painted to look like porcelain.

We had some lunch and I got my sachertorte from the original sachertorte cafe, then we took the subway out to Prater Park, an old amusement park where you pay per ride instead of a flat entrance fee. We thought we'd give a few of them a go, and went on a couple of rollercoasters and a thrill house. I highly recommend the Indoor Rollercoaster - it's quite fun!

We returned to the centre of town and climbed to the top of the south tower of St Stephen's Cathedral, which was actually pretty disappointing, then visited Karlskirche and Belvedere Park on our way home. We're still suffering from a bit of a cold, so we had a rest and called it a night after dinner.


Budapest

We arrived in Budapest quite late on Friday, so really all we did was have dinner at a nearby night market and drinks at one of the city's famous ruin bars. Theo and I were feeling a bit under the weather, I think we've come down with a cold, so we stayed for a drink and headed back to the hostel.

Yesterday, we took a hop on/hop off bus around the city's major sights, like Hero Square, the Citadella and the Palace. It's definitely not as scenic as the other places we've been to on this tour but there were still some gorgeous buildings and bridges down by the river. We took lots of photos to commemorate our last day as a Busabout group together, and went our separate ways after lunch.

The Red Bull Air Race was on, and that was pretty special to watch. These small stunt planes would roar through the sky, flying down low to the Danube River and sometimes passing under the bridge, then dodging obstacles placed on the water before screaming back up into the sky and looping victoriously over the city as the crowd looked on. We got some great views of the show from the palace, and spent the afternoon admiring the city from our vantage point.

Theo and I opted to do a boat cruise down the Danube instead of going to a spa party (a "sparty") with the rest of the group. We had a buffet dinner on the boat and floated up and down the river as the sun dipped over the horizon and the lights of the city began to flicker on. We were still suffering from our colds so we headed back to the hostel, only to find the whole group in our room preloading for the sparty! Secretly I was happy to see everyone one last time, but you could see on my face that I was too tired to be sociable. They did ask for one last rendition of Let it Go, and I was happy to oblige, though that is going to be the final memory the group has of me.

This morning, Theo and I are at the bus terminal, heading back to Vienna for a few nights. It's been such a good week, meeting all these people and hanging out with them. Another fun Busabout tour!


Vienna I

Vienna has been awesome (every city I've been to is awesome!) We took a walking tour around town to all the major sights of the city, visiting some grand palaces and buildings along the way, as well as some great places to grab some of the city's best cuisine. We ended the day having some classic Austrian schnitzel.

We had an early start the next day to get out to the Wachau Valley, which sits on the Danube River some 70km from Vienna. We rode 24km over the day, biking to various wineries around the area and enjoying the beautiful Austrian countryside. We visited the ruins of a castle where King Richard III of England was held captive, and admired the views of the river and Valley from our vantage point. It was a warm but windy day, but so good to get out and exercise, and I didn't get too drunk and crash either.

We came back to Vienna and had a massive seafood dinner at the Naschtmarkt near our hostel. Theo and I needed to do our laundry so we called it off for the rest of the night while the others continued on to a local bar for a few drinks.

We had some free time this morning, which we spent having some of the famous Viennese coffee and a sachertorte, a chocolate cake with a layer of apricot marmalade. Theo and I also picked up a bunch of antipasti from the Naschtmarkt to takeaway for later, for a very reasonable price.

We're back here by ourselves in a few days, so we weren't too concerned with missing out on things this round. There's a couple of interesting buildings I'd like to revisit and I've got a friend to catch up with as well. Farewell for now Vienna!