A Travellerspoint blog

Scandinavian Scandals, Loving London and the City of Love


View Around the world on cadeabroad's travel map.

Finally, after all these years of hearing about Sweden and Sven and Larsh and Mya and Lotta and August and Neils and Julia and Sanna, it was finally time for Lib to show me around her second home, Sweden. First stop from Bergen was the capital, Stockholm. Originally we had planned to stay longer but in order to get to Gothenburg (Lib's city) in time for August's studenten (more on this later), we only stayed for one night. The short time I spent in Stockholm formed a very nice impression. However, Stockholm will be remembered for the reuniting of Lib with her brother Will after six months apart. Will met us at the station and after the exchange of pleasantries expected we went into the city for a boat tour of Stockholm. It was an all together pleasant experience which was followed by a trip to the famous Vasa Museum. Built around a sunken and excavated Viking ship, the museum's sole focus is the ship. The story goes that some 400 years ago this ship made it about 50 metres off the coast before coming a cropper and sinking. The disaster cost the engineers and ship builders their lives so embarrassed was the King of Sweden. Tough boss. So that was Stockholm. Short and sweet.

Next stop was Gothenburg. Lib's anticipation had hit fever pitch and I have to say I was very excited too. One of the McEniry's closest Swedish friends, Lotta, had kicked her mum and step-father out of her apartment (to go sailing in the Greek Islands) so that the four of us (Will's friend Aisha as well) could have their apartment to ourselves. We settled in for the first night with August's studenten the next day. Lib had described studentens to me like this: well, it's sort of a Swedish graduation parade type thing where the kids who finish school have a great time on trucks. Not quite sure what to make of all this, I went to the studenten with my eyes wide open. What transpired was a kind of Valedictory Dinner on drugs. The kids all finish their last class in the morning and then go to a public spot in the city where their family and friends await their arrival with placards adorning their pictures and names. Without a doubt the best placard was of some poor kid whose parents had chosen a picture of of him wearing nothing but a sombrero and couldn't have been taken any more than 3 years ago. Priceless. Anyway, the kids all run up on to a stage and chant inaudible chants and generally jump up and down. After a little while, the kids come down from the stage and their family and friends put flowers around theirs necks on string until there's too many and they take them off. From there they all hop on an open back truck with a DJ, 10 speakers and a whole lot of champagne. The DJ cranks the music and the kids go mental on the back of the truck as it drives around the centre of Gothenburg. THEN afterall that, the kids have to go back to their own houses where their family and friends await with a civil party and the kids have to try and stand up straight and speak clearly to their grandparents. Sure beats the hell out of Valedictory Dinner.
The next few days were spent meeting Lib's Swedish family friends. The first night I was able to meet Lotta, her mum Burgita and her daughter Julia. Lotta picked us up from the train station and took us out to a really nice Greek restaurant. In what turned out to be a theme for Sweden, we weren't allowed to pay for a thing. The day after we caught up with the Idwall's whom I had had the pleasure of meeting before and the family with which Will had been staying. The father, Larsh, comes to Australia for the Australian Open annually had had dinner at The Strand. Thus, every Swedish person I met queried whether it was my "great restaurant that Larsh raves about". Humbled, I admitted that it was indeed my family's restaurant. The first weekend in Gothenburg was spent at Lotta's mother's summer house in Huveneset. A place by the lake so to speak, it was a beautiful drive in our borrowed BMW (Mya's) and the destination was just as nice. Whilst there the four of us went on a nice walk that culminated in some tricky terrain through some rocks. In an act of unrivaled chivalry, Will and I left the women behind to climb higher and further and left them to come what may. As it turned out Will and I made it back about half an hour before the girls who came back to see Will on a hammock and me kicking a soccer ball. Though expensive, the four of us decided a night on the town was in order once back in Gothenburg. Hampered by the rules of some bars that have age restrictions and only allow those aged over 23, we still found a few watering holes worthy of our money. Will and I in particular took to the local ales and such was our state that we somehow made it to an Australian bar. After getting about 100 Swedish Kroner up on the blackjack table with VB in hand, I lost it plus some and decided that Australian bars are shite.
A couple of days later we finally gave in to Will's pleas and went to the local theme park, Lisgberg. On the first ride of the day, in what was probably the funniest moment of my life, Lib screamed "seriously" in my ear about 50 times as if yelling "Cade, SERIOUSLY!" would make the ride stop. When it finally did stop, I was the proud owner of a mark on my arm that perfectly matched Libby's hand. So with that Lib's day was done when Will's and mine was just beginning. We did every ride with the roller coasters done at least twice.
The next week we borrowed Mya's BMW again and did a day trip to Marstrand, an archipelago. Again it was a lovely drive and the islands are so pretty. The last trip Lib and I did was with Lotta and her husband Andesh to Lotta's aunty's summer house in Halevekstrand, another of the archipelago islands. Since we were leaving a couple of days before Mid-Sommer, Lotta had decided to give us an early Mid-Sommer. Crayfish, prawns and herring washed down with some schnapps was lunch. Absolutely stuffed, we went for a walk around the island and returned back to the house for a nanna nap (tough life). I awoke to the smell of Swedish meatballs and the realisation that the time was finally upon me; time to eat Lotta's famed Swedish meatballs. I greedily ate about 4000 meatballs in which every one lived up to its lofty reputation. The next day Andesh took us out on his boat to the island and restaurant where their wedding reception was four years earlier and had a great lunch.
Aside from meeting and greeting Swedes, we spent a fair bit of time making good use of free accommodation to get ourselves back in order. Long sleeps and a few creature comforts go a long way to refreshing the weary traveler. All in all Sweden was a pretty amazing experience. The weather rarely got below 25 and such kindness from Lib's friends is rarely witnessed.

So after two weeks it was time for Lib to bid a sad farewell to her second home and loved friends. Though tears were spared, I sensed it was like leaving home again and it was definitely tough on her.

Feeling absolutely refreshed after two weeks of being pampered, I was really excited to get to London. Lib's parents were in town as well and so we were lucky enough to have our own hotel room in South Kensington. We met Lib's parents for a drink and then we had a booking at a nice restaurant around the corner for Will's 18th birthday. London, like New York, was a big city crammed into a short time so spare me (well, I'll spare you) if I surmise a little. The next day Lib and I did the touristy thing for a bit and saw the changing of the guards. We caught up with Rob and Pen for lunch at an oyster bar called Conrad's. Rob and I took our places at the table and had a few bottles of mineral water and about an hour later Lib and Pen returned with a couple of bags full of clothes. A nice lunch ensued and Lib and I were tourists again. The next stop was Kensington Palace in Kensington Gardens. A delightful spot, it was Princess Di's digs after the separation. The next day I arranged to meet up with my cousin Marcus at Big Ben to go see Westminster Abbey. We forked out a few bob and had a look around the Abbey. A very impressive church indeed. Lib had to go see her mum off to the airport so Marcus and I decided we'd check out the Natural History Museum. After about three exhibits, Marcus asked if I was thirsty. I replied that indeed I was and that perhaps we could find a pub nearby. Shortly after we found a pub and caught up over a few pints of Ireland's finest stout. Marcus was due elsewhere and I had arranged to meet a mate from the World Cup, Jako. For those who have seen the photos from the cricket Jako is the convict. Jako came to our hotel for a beer and as we caught up Rob had made his way down and invited Jako and I out for dinner with he and the remaining McEniry family members. A beautiful French dinner ensued and Jako and I made our way to another pub. So after a few pints with Marcus, a pint with Jako, martini and wine with dinner and another couple of pints with Jako post-dinner, I was pissed again. I made my home to Lib and wondered how I seem to get myself in these predicaments. By the next day Pen and Rob had left so we were booted out of our hotel room and left to fend for ourselves again. Well not quite. With some foresight I had asked Nash to arrange a place for Lib and I to stay and he came through with spades. Not only did Mazland and John take us into their apartment, they picked us up from the hotel, drove us through London traffic and hosted us at their beautiful restaurant (54 Farringdon) twice. After we settled into our new place, Lib and I took off to meet Will at the Tower of London. The Tower of London was probably my favourite thing in London. I'm not quite sure why, perhaps it was the ravens, or more probably it was the crown jewels. Either way it was just a really good place to go to. When you were within its walls you had the feeling you were in a really old place. My simplicity aside, the jewels were a feature of our visit to London. The conveyor belt that culminates in the big daddy is a sight for sore eyes. Literally. Those diamonds and rubies really sparkle and it hurts your eyes. That night Mazland cooked us a beautiful Malaysian dinner at 54 Farringdon and I caught up with Kameel and Wesley and met the staff. We drank until 5am. At some stage I thought it was a good idea to call Nash; not so bad considering it was 1pm his time except that it woke him up.
Saturday was spent at the Portabella market, known around the world as the market from Notting Hill. Hugh Grant jokes aside, it was a very good market and Lib and I picked up a couple of pairs of sunglasses, a lock, some DVD's and some fruit. We got back into Picadilly Circus to buy some cheap tickets to see Les Miserables for that night. The cunning ticket guy stooged us and we ended up spending enough money for front row tickets only to be seated on the top level. The show, despite me feeling absolutely moronic, was fantastic. After that Marcus had arranged through his friend Chrissy for Lib and I to go on the open top Corona bus. Being summer, it was bloody freezing. Despite the cold, it was a great way to see London at night and the free Corona's were a treat. The bus also got us into the Ministry of Sound nightclub for free and Chrissy gave us five free Corona vouchers. Lib, not much of a drinker let alone beer drinker, reluctantly gave me her vouchers (reluctant because she knew I would use them). It was a really good night and I was able to catch up with some people from home who I hadn't seen in a very long time. After a big few days though we were stuffed and called it a night around 2am. Marcus was the sole-benefactor of our remaining Corona vouchers.
Other highlights of London were: Churchill's war bunker museum (amazing), the various Monopoly board places (Picadilly, Trafalgur etc), seeing Jasmine completely out of the blue on the underground through a window in which she was coincidentally standing in (and later catching up with her and her Brazilian boyfriend Bruno), St Paul's, tent shopping (50 pounds for a tent, two sleeping mats and two sleeping bags; only catch is the sleeping bags are leopard print and camouflage), Tate Modern Museum (really, really interesting), Harrod's, Harvey Nicholas, watching a guard be admonished by his superior, Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Millennium Bridge, Jubilee Bridge and the list goes on and on.

So from London the next stop was Paris. As we checked our bags we had a minor scare when the lady couldn't find my booking but it was sorted out. As we boarded though, I just knew Paris was going to be great. Handing over my ticket after Lib, a smile came across the lady's face as she said "welcome Mr Elg, you've been upgraded for today's flight." Having never flown anything other than cattle, this was a seriously big thing for me. Trying to hide my glee, I reluctantly offered my seat to Lib who politely declined (I was over-joyed). Thereafter I couldn't shut up to her all the way along the gangway about how I was in row A. Unfortunately the flight is only about 40 minutes but I must say the food was a delight, the staff personable and the hot towel before take off was a nice touch. After we touched down I walked on air all the way to our hostel; that was until we made the discovery. We lost our tent! Our beautiful, beautiful tent had been lost between London and our hostel in Paris and we had no idea where. Absolutely inconsolable, we made our way into the city to check out Paris.
Fortunately for us, the sight as you step out from the Champs Elysee metro station is truly one to behold. The tent was quickly forgotten as we got our bearings in the city of love. With absolutely no purpose we wandered aimlessly for some time on the Left and Right Banks of the Seine before our legs and stomachs got the better of us. Without doubt though, one could easily spend a week in Paris without spending a moment in a museum. Unfortunately and unbeknownst to us though, the first day was to be the best weather wise and we chose not to climb the Eiffel Tower.
Although there is much to see on the outside, Paris is just as famous for its vast and diverse range of museums. The Louvre was high on the list of things to do. Typically, Lib and I failed to check opening days/times so we went on the one day of the week it is closed (who'd have thought it closed?) Disappointed but not despaired, we went to go see the Musee de Orsay. A quick look at the 100m long line discouraged us enough to give it a miss and so we went wandering again. Jexy, a Paris regular, had given me his own home-made guide to Paris and so we decided to check out some of his recommendations. We went to a store called Collette. Not specifying in anything, the store has an eclectic mix of CD's, clothes, ornaments, gadgets, books and other oddities. A very cool but expensive store indeed. From there we made our way to another of Jexy's recommendations and went to the Luxembourg Gardens. Jexy said he spent some time there when he was studying in Paris and I can see why. A very serene place. The Latin quarter was close by and this was as good a place as any for an espresso and a quick bite.
The next day we pencilled in the Louvre and wanted to get there early to beat the masses. Early we got there, the masses we did not beat. After waiting in line to buy the tickets, we waited in line to go through security. The line is seriously about 30 metres long and there are three of them going through the one point. It is not all so bad though, whilst you wait you can ogle the upside-down pyramid. Also, I formed my own vigilante against people pushing in. Typically, the pusher-innerer has three redeeming features: they are older, arrogant and look confused (1 and 3 are connected). The most common method is the 'look confused as I pretend to walk through the line and suddenly stop to read my map and then what's this? Oh, I've found my way to the middle of the line.' Being early and without a drop of caffeine in my veins, I was in no state to accept this behavior. Time and again I had to tell people where the back of the line was. Ask them why they think they don't have to line up? And why their time is more important than mine? It infuriated me. The most common response was to act more confused and then to slip in behind me somewhere in front of people who were too gutless to speak up. Anyway, once inside I found a coffee and calmed my nerves. Determined to see Mona Lisa early and get it out of the way, we (and everyone else) made our along the hallowed halls of the Louvre to see Da Vinci's most famed piece. Suitably impressed but not overwhelmed, we got out of there and checked out some of the other pieces. All in all it was a pretty good experience, but without furthering my credentials as a simplistic fool, it really is just a museum and you have to have a better education in the finer things in life to truly enjoy and appreciate it. Nonetheless, we did have a nice day and Napolean's apartment, despite smelling old, would've made great digs.
Other highlights of Paris were the Arch de Triumph (very good), the Eiffel Tower (even better than I had expected), Notre Dame (a beautiful church, watch out for the gypsies though), Sacre Coure (from a distance), Palais de Tokyo (another of Jexy's great recommendations), Concord and the many palaces spotted around (Petit, Grand) and the Ecole Militaire.

Currently we are in Barcelona after spending the last two weeks driving around Spain and Portugal. The time before that we drove down the west coast of France after visiting the D-Day beaches in the north. But that is a story for another time.

And since it took me a few days to upload I can now see we have left Barcelona and are currently staying in St. Remy, having seen the Tour de France two days ago. You may also know St. Remy as the place Vincent (Vinny to his friends) Van Gough spent a year in a mental hospital and where he painted such masterpieces as Starry Night.

Non-facebookers feel free to click on the links below to see my photos.

God Speed.

Paris

London

Sweden

Posted by cadeabroad 09:29 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

From Russia with Love (incorporating Norway)


View Around the world on cadeabroad's travel map.

So after a successful tour of the USA, whirlwind as it was, it was time to move on to its Cold War rival, Russia. One would think that the USA would’ve let bygones be bygones but apparantly not. Time after time when US immigration saw the proper noun Russia in our itinerery it cost us a good ten minutes of our lives explaining that "Russia is just another country on our trip and we have no plans other than sight seeing… Except resurrecting COMMUNISM AND LAUNCHING A NUCLEAR WAR ON AMERICA!" Paranoid place.

Anyway the first stop was Moscow- a place I knew little about but I was determined to try and rectify that. I knew they spoke Russian; this seemed to surprise Lib though because after using sign language the first fifteen times she complained for the fifteenth time that “I just think they should know A LITTLE ENGLISH!” I finally managed to convince her that English isn’t global and its okay that people don’t understand it. Communication was difficult though and this is magnified due to the lack of proper supermarket style stores. Most of the stores are small and the stock is behind the counter. We promptly learned the word for bread and made good use of Lib’s vegemite for a couple of nights before we found some better stores.
Moscow is a city of ten million people, I had no idea it was so big. It seems to run pretty smoothly (except for lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality rates etc) but there is defintely a lot of bitterness towards the powers that be, in particular President Putin and his kronies. I was also surpirsed to learn that Yeltzin wasn’t as highly regarded as most outsiders believe. It is very interesting speaking to locals about their politics and history- it certainly gives you a different perspective but you have to remember its only one person’s opinion. The first day's sightseeing was the Kremlin. I was surprised to learn (lots of surprises in Russia) that there were many cathedrals in the Kremlin. I had also falsely believed that the Kremlin was purely the political centre of Moscow. Apparantly Kremlin is just a Russian word for fortress or citadel in any Russian city. Within Moscow’s Kremlin are five cathedrals, the armoury museum and their parliament (I think). The cathedrals were okay but the armoury was something else. It was actually the Russian armoury before the revolution and has become a museum sometime between then and now. It houses the Faberge Eggs (please excuse my spelling with some of the Russian proper nouns), enough gold to sink a small ship, weapons, armour, horse carriages, everything royal, gifts to the royal family and more. The highlight was definitely the eggs though. They are absolutely beautiful and even have a surprise inside, sort of like a kinder surprise only a couple of million dollars more expensive and without the chocoalte… imagine it had chocolate too... The mind boggles. The best purchase that day was the audioguide because it provided a lot of interesting information on the Russian tsars and I took in a lot and began my quest for knowledge on Russian history. After that it was the cathedrals. Our five cathedral tickets seemed like good value until we learned that 3 were closed. The two we saw were a bit ho-hum. I mean they were impressive but the highlight for me was playing hide the video camera. At every cathedral in Russia they charge you extra for cameras and video cameras and I don’t like paying for the priviledge. Thus I get to run away from little old ladies yelling at me as I film the inside. It always cracks me up when they say that cameras spoil the sanctity of the place but they don’t consider the gift stores dotted around the cathedral to be a problem. Other highlights in the Kremlin are the beautiful gardens, the world’s biggest cannon and the world’s biggest bell!

The next morning we slept in and then mosied on down to the red square. We had a leisurely breakfast and decided it was time to see the Lenin Mausoleum. Only problem was we had failed to notice that old Lenin only takes guests between 10am and 1pm and it was 12:50. The Russian guards told us it wasn’t going to happen and I wasn’t drunk so unlike in previous nightclub experiences I conceded that their guns were bigger than mine and moved on. We were pretty pissed off but over the next few days we spoke to a lot of people who said they were either unimpressed or disgusted with it so the disappointment waned. We made the most of a bad thing and spent quite a while in St Basil’s Cathedral. St Basil’s is the one you see on all the post cards and on the internation correspondent’s reports from Moscow. It looks a little bit like Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory but it’s really cool and not as tacky as you might think. The story with the cathedrals in Russia is that they are designed to resemble candles burning towards heaven (this is because Orthodoxy believes that the soul is like a candle burning towards heaven). St Basil’s does not resemble this at all. Forgive my bad memory but I believe it was Ivan the Terrible who commissioned its construction to commerorate his victory over the Tatars at Kazan. Apparently this is a fact: he blinded his architects so that they could not design anything of comparable beauty after its completion. It is actually a beautiful cathedral both inside and out and Lib did some illegal filming inside and we were even able to get a quartet singing in there. They saw Lib filming and covered their faces and pointed to the no camera sign!

The next day we did a bus tour (we don’t make a habit of doing organised tours) and that was a really nice way to see Moscow. It’s too big to walk and the bus tour enabled us to see some interesting sites and the seven sisters, seven architectural monuments including corporate buildings and a university.

All in all Moscow was very interesting but we both suffered a bit of culture shock and I think the four days there prepared us better for St Petersburg. To ST Petersburg it was then. Simple right? Get on a plane? Express train? Well… think the next step up from a steam train with 60 people per carriage and Lib and I the only non-Russians on a 2am, 11 hour train ride from Moscow to St P. The train station has not one word of English in it and I am grumpy, Lib needs to rise to the occasion. She does and we finally get to the right carriage and to our beds… wait, they’re seats. Ohhhh, they fold up into comfortable 1.5m long and 30cm wide beds. That doesn’t worry me though because I am only about 1.5m long and 30cm wide and am so exhausted I could sleep on broken glass. I tell Lib I’m the man so will watch our many valuables and tie them to my bed and leg in an intricate knot that would take Houdini a week to get out of. I awake 10 hours later and some bloody Houdini has undone my knot. Panic stations. Wait, where did these sheets, blanket and pillow come from? I look down and Lib looks up at me with eyes that immediately tell me not to speak. She explains that I passed out and she tried to wake me up and could not. Worried that someone could steal our stuff she nobely undid my granny knot and protected our stuff all night. Not only did she do that but she had tucked me in as well! All without me opening my eyes! What a man I am! What a girlfriend!
So we arrive in St P eventually; me well slept and Lib exhausted. Thankfully we find out its St Petersburg’s birthday celebrations and this lift Lib’s mood considerably- she loves parades.

St Petersburg is arguably (I argue with myself a lot) the best city I have been to (except New York, that belongs in another category all together [new note after original writing: Paris is in NY's league]). It is beautiful with its canals running through the city and its many beautiful cathedrals and theaters lining the streets. Having come from a city as gray as Moscow, the colour of St Petersburg was a welcome relief. The first stop was the Church of Spilled Blood, so named because it was where Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. It actually had another less gruesome name (Church of Resurrection of Christ) but Spilled Blood is far more catchy and memorable. Its exterior is not unlike St Basils but the interior was far simpler (but not less enchanting). Apparently the soviets used it as a potato warehouse and wrecked it a little, we were grateful it had been restored because its right up there on my church list. Its location on the canal and next to a large and beautiful park made for a memorable experience. Further down the road we trekked to the Winter Palace, AKA the Hermitage Museum. The Winter Palace was commissioned by Empress Elizabeth and it now houses a massive collection of pre-revolution antiques. Focusing on spoils of war, European art, artifacts, relics (I like that word), military and tsar items, it was as big as the Metropolitan Museum in New York and even more interesting and beautiful to boot. The museum is full of (bloody) tourists and so makes moving around quite difficult. Tour groups full of (generally) older people are led by a tour leader who believes that they are Moses and the crowd around them are the Red Sea. The tour leaders can be identified by the distinctive walking pose of one arm raised carrying a unique item such as a flower, pen or umbrella to allow the tour group to follow them through the hordes. Realising the power the leaders wield, I hatched a plan to copy them. Using a sheet of paper I found on a window sill, I raised my arm above my head and held the piece of paper aloft. And like Moses many years before me, I indeed parted the Red (get it?) Sea.
High on our list of things to do, thanks to rave reviews from Penny McEniry, was to see some ballet at the Marinsky Theatre. So after walking to the theatre along the canal, by some cathedrals and via some lush parks, we finally made it to the theatre to buy our tickets for the ballet. Regretfully, they only had tickets to the opera but that would have to suffice. The Marinsky Theatre is absolutely brilliant. Besides from being really old, its interior reminds one of times gone by when royalty was important enough to command such beautiful things with tax-payers dough. Although regal by sight, the chairs were wooden and dreadfully uncomfortable. For me, the show started badly. Suffering an itchy throat, I coughed and spluttered embarrassingly through the first thirty odd minutes before it calmed down. The performers did a much better job than the rest of the crowd in pretending not to notice. After my throat settled though, it was captivating viewing. Not understanding a single word, I listened intently and enjoyed every moment. After the interval though, at about 11:00PM I became bored as the opera moved into its third hour. So with a sore bum and back from the seats Lib and I quietly left the theatre pleased we had seen such a cultured event. Happily, leaving early didn't present the usual problem of missing the ending because we wouldn't have understood it anyway. At 11:00PM it was still easily light enough to walk home.
The next day we decided to go on the self-proclaimed best walking tour in St Petersburg, if not the world. Peter's Walking Tour was meant to be an 'off the tourist trail' walk through the city. Part of that statement was true, it was indeed a walk through the city. We made our way through a market and on to many other sites very much on the tourist trail. If it wasn't for a French lady (born in Senegal and currently residing in Oslo) it would've made for a pretty tripe experience. We met Nabou when she asked whether we minded her smoking at our lunch table. I hopped off for a pit stop and when I returned Lib had pretty much arranged to stay with Nabou when we went to Oslo, conveniently in two days time (didn't give her much time to change her mind). After lunch we walked with Nabou and spent much of the time learning about her. She had lived in Norway since the start of the year as a result of her work. Based at the University of Oslo, she is a lawyer who specialises in human rights. For those less geographically and culturally inclined, Norway is a long way from Senegal when you consider that Norway is dark most of the day in winter (not a feature of Senegal) and has many fewer black people (like, a lot less...). The end of the tour was probably the highlight, not just because it ended, but also because it took us to Peter and Paul's Fortress. Originally built to guard the new city in the 18th century, its more famous as the political prison that housed Peter's own son after he coaxed him out of hiding promising him he wouldn't put him in prison (great dad...). All of the Russian Tsars since Pete are buried here but Lib and I didn't tour that much because we're not big on dead people, well, at least viewing them as such.

At the risk of boring everyone in the restaurant to death, I digress.

Off to Norway it was- first stop Oslo. As promised, Nabou housed us for the night we were in Oslo. Not content to just let us stay the night, she made us sleep in her comfortable double bed whilst she slept on the couch. Still not content with that arrangement, she cooked us a three course meal that was a delight. Oslo was a short stop for us, one night, and will remembered for the rain and a $10 latte. I still say the latte was worth it; it was absolutely amazing and complemented by brownies still warm from the oven. Their latte blew mine AND the Pickle Barrel's out of the water. Oslo can also be remembered as the day 'well, we did stay with Nabou' became Lib and my favourite statement. Pressed with any concerns over whether we REALLY need to get a taxi instead of a train or whether we REALLY need an ice-cream, we pulled out the Nabou line. We've even used it retrospectively on the laptop we bought in NY. It lasted all through Sweden until we finally decided that we can no longer use it as justification for unnecessary purchases. From Oslo we caught a train to a lovely little place called Flåm. The train ride was absolutely spectacular. The greenest of greens punctuated with bright snow and ice reflecting the Spring sun. Waterfalls much bigger than those witnessed in Grenade dazzled the eye and were frequent along the track. After some six or so hours on the train to Flåm, we caught a ferry through the Western Fjords of Norway to our hotel in Belestrand. The fjords are where the giant glaciers have carved through the earth over many centuries. What's left is sparkling blue water that the ferry takes you along with beautiful landscapes on either side. We saw many more beautiful waterfalls and some quaint little towns that line the fjords. We pulled into Belestrand and made our way to our lovely hotel. It turned out that the McEniry's had stayed at the very same hotel some 12 years earlier.
Belestrand is a very little town that throbs with tourists in the summer time, about a month after we departed. Not loaded with things to do besides hiking, Lib and I decided to go for a hike. It was a reasonably simple yet rewarding hike through the gentle mountains that overlook Belestrand. The hike provided some wonderful views and an array of natural wonders. Believe it or not, there was another waterfall. After the hike our stay in Belestrand had finished and we were off to Bergen, Norway's second largest city and the home of the Osland clan, the clan of my friend Bård. Bård had been good enough to arrange for his cousin Preben to meet with us down by the markets and we had a quick (and expensive) coffee with him before Lib and I climbed a nearby mountain. The top of the mountain had fabulous views over Bergen and lucky for us there was a viking fare there as well. I played with a wooden sword for a bit and then we caught the cable car back down to the local market. Quite hungry but not prepared (read too tight) to fork out Norwegian Kroner for food, I sampled all the offerings from the fish market stalls. Perhaps fish is too narrow a definition, fish and mammal stalls. See, now let me explain this before you judge me, I was offered and unknowingly accepted a sample of whale meet. It is true that I found out before I had actually eaten the meat, but I had already accepted it and I believe it would've been rude to not eat it once I had accepted it. Regular readers would also know that I have the traveling motto of "when in Rome, do as the Romans do". Being in Norway, whale is a meat that is regularly eaten and so I can say I have no regrets. Having said that, despite its delicious and salty taste, I would not eat it again because it goes against my beliefs and all that. Aside from that Bergen was a nice town but outrageously expensive. We didn't venture too far and wide but we had a nice Norwegian experience.

And I'm going to leave it there. We are currently loving Paris after having a good week in London that was preceded by two weeks in Sweden. I know I've said this before mum but I really think I won't take so long to write my next blog and so it hopefully won't be as long.

Facebook addresses for non-facebook users:

Russia

Norway

Posted by cadeabroad 05:44 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

USA- All the Way

LA, Seattle, Vancouver/Whistler-Blackcomb, NY, Washington DC, Boston and Littleton


View Around the world on cadeabroad's travel map.

And then, just like that, it was over. Years of dreaming, years of hard work and a few days preparation and just like that it was over. Nearly three weeks in South America and over a month in the Caribbean had come and gone. Although at times when I was lying prostrate on the floor, reeling in pain from the previous days antics and wanting nothing more than for it to be over, I wasn’t really ready for it to end. Nonetheless time waits for no one and so it was time to move on. Like so many before me, the English, the Spanish, Americans and Dutch; I had gone to the Americas in the hope of conquering it and moved on defeated. Not all was lost though; we had the cup in the bag and a stack full of memories (photos).

Regular readers will remember a long-forgotten character called Libby. Well finally, it was time to reunite with her in LA. After 7 weeks of longing for one another, umpteen text messages and phone calls the moment had arrived. Lib was to pick Rosie and I up from the airport and we were to spend the night in a nearby hotel. Only problem was Lib had lost track of time in a local drinking hole with her mate and left Rosie and I scratching our nuts. Lib eventually arrived, somewhat apologetic and we reaquanited ourselves. Rosie stayed with a nice American we had met on the Inca Trail and just like that it was Rosie who? Not quite.

The next day we all lived out our childhood dreams and visited Disney Land. There are two parks at Dinsey Land: the crappy traditional one with ‘it’s a small world’ and the ‘tea cup’ ride and the good park with the Hollywood Hotel, California Screamin’ etc. We bought the double park pass with our concierge’s words ringing in our ears, “theres no way you can do both in one day”. We learned quickly that most Americans are large and as such move relatively slowly between rides. Needless to say we covered both parks with enough time to drop by Mickey’s House and get some photos with the old mouse. The day was complete and we were spent. Rosie and I hadn’t moved as quickly [in our lives] in a couple of months and were absolutely knackered. All of a sudden the pace had suddenly gone up a notch. The American Rosie was staying with had offered to pick us all up and we decided to grab some Mexican on the way home. He explained he practically grew up in the place and as if on cue his mum walked in and sat at the opposite table. We finished a wonderful meal, complete with the obligatory margaritas (Rosie and I felt at home again) and a couple of coronas. Full as boots we went to pay the bill and discovered that the Yank’s mum had paid the bill in full! Bloody Americans, just when you think you’ve got them pinned they go and do something nice like that. In all honesty though they were really good people and this is only one example of how hospitable they were. Our whirlwind tour of LA was over.

The next day we boarded a jet bound for Seattle to see Leanne at the University of Washington. Leanne met us at the airport and before we knew it we were in a campus the size of (insert large simile). Leanne was generous enough to let us stay in her dormitory (actually a house). Lib scored a single bed and Rosie and I couched it up (along with the pace, our accommodation had suddenly increased). Before we crashed though it was off to a few of the local spots in Seattle. Leanne took us to a fantastic eatery and Rosie and I had to remember how to use a knife and fork. We fumbled our way through a couple of courses and made our way to a few bars. Compared to Barbados… compared to bloody anywhere, Seattle was cold. We attempted to drink in the outside area but gave up when our digits when numb. We had a fun night and the highlight for me was seeing the bar where Nirvana and Led Zeppelin used to play. Eventually we made it home and discovered a frat party across the street from Leanne’s house. Leanne had already warned us, much to our disappointment, that unless you’re in the frat only girls are allowed in (actually seems very reasonable to me if you’re running the frat). Needless to say Rosie and I saw this as a challenge. Leanne called out to us but it was hopeless. Before Lib and Leanne could say where are the boys we were witnessing grinding first hand downstairs on the dance floor of the frat. For those folk who don’t know, grinding is what young Americans call dancing. Picture two (or more) people having sex standning up, now put their clothes on and put some music in the background. Wala! You know what grindning is. They basically do this all night grinding against one another until they’re too tired to actually take a girl home. Anyway that was that, tick that box we had been to a frat party.
The next day, sporting mild hangovers, we did the tourist thing in Seattle. First stop was the Seattle market made famous by the fish throwing guys. These crazy guys who throw fish to one another when it is ordered make an all-together good market even better. If the Australian cricket team want to know how to take their fielding to the next level they ought to get a bucket of cold and wet fish out on the field and start throwing them at each other. These guys were awesome. One handed grabs and all. Some time later I tired of people throwing fish and saw the rest of the market. I neglected to mention that upon entering the USA I rediscovered caffeine. So seeing the original Starbucks across the road was a highlight and called for a celebration- a Venti (huge) sized Mocha Frappachino with a shot of vanilla. After that we saw the Space Needle and gazed out across Seattle and did a walk around the University of Washington (UW). UW is so big and amazing- their football stadium is bigger and better than any cricket stadium we had seen in the Caribbean and their indoor gym has about 4000 treadmills, an indoor running track, many basketball courts and a rock climbing facility to boot. I’m sure they have lovely lecture theatres too but I stuck to the sport fields.

Leanne’s friends were having a party that night and Lib, Rosie and I had watched enough American teen movies to one day dream of drinking from a keg in red cups. The day had arrived. $3US for a red cup at the entrance was your ticket to drink all night. I bought two and made my way to the keg. Soon enough word got around that there were some Aussies in the house and we were invited to play some traditional American drinking games. Beer pong. We played a variation of this American classic and the scores were tied 1-1 when the fuzz showed up. I wondered to myself whether I was perhaps in a movie because it was playing out like a Hollywood classic. The disappointment of not getting more value out of my $6US was tempered when we were in a photo with the police officer. We later learned he gave the kids a ticket for having loud music or some such minor offence. Down but not out we made our way to the local Irish pub and proceeded to hit the black stuff in big glasses.

The next morning and Seattle was over and it was time for Vancouver. We boarded our greyhound and four hours later we were in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. We were staying with Elg family friends, Tom and Geniveive Hassan, a Canadian couple we had met some years earlier. They took us into their home and I was absolutely thrilled to meet their two children. We sat down for a quick debriefing on where we’ve been and how it’s been when Tom mentioned that there was still 300cm of Snow on Whistler/Blackcomb. Before we could say “but it’s bloody May” we had organised to borrow their car, three sets of ski gear and a packed lunch for the next day. The snow was about average but it felt incredible. Less than a week before I was on a beach in Barbados and only the day before we hadn’t even contemplated skiing; the fact that it had come out of nowhere made the experience that much more enjoyable. Lib and I with our limited but decent skiing experience carved up Blackcomb and persuaded Rosie with his less and indecent skiing experience down some slopes he might otherwise have feared walking. In fact, we knew we’d pushed it too far in some tress when he removed his skis and started walking. We couldn’t quite make it out over our chuckles be we thought we heard him curse us when he finally made it to the lift. Typically, it was yours truly with the stack of the day. I had earlier pleaded with Lib to talk me out of any stupidity but I saw a hill I liked and wondered if I could do it without a turn. About 90% of the way down with a grin from ear to ear I made the mistake. I thought about it. I wondered in my head if I’d get hurt if I stacked and before I could answer my own question I was one ski down and one ski up tumbling ass over tit. With a sore groin and badly bruised ego I decided to finally get up out of the snow and find a beer. Fortunately it was a small ski down the hill I tumbled to the next watering hole. After the skiing had finished I decided I had to give Lib and Rosie a guided tour of the village, me having actually been somewhere that Lib hadn’t. Memories of 2003 flooded back and it was only time that forbade me going back to the Mongolian Grill for one last meal. We did however whet the whistle with a couple of ales at Sam, Nash and my old drinking hole at Cito’s.
And again a visit to another city was over, our whirlwind tour of North America was rushing by and sadly we didn’t get enough time with Tom and Genevieve and the boys. But the pain was eased when our American Airlines jet glided over Manhattan Island and Frank Sinatra’s words began playing in my head on repeat “I want to wake up, in a city that never sleeps- New York” familiar readers should also note that whilst they were indeed Frank Sinatra’s words, it was indeed Brett Walker’s voice that I heard.

So we arrived in New York. We were finally in a place for a decent length of time (a week) and had a fabulous place to stay. Lib’s parents had generously given her a week in a hotel on Broadway and even more generously Lib had allowed Rosie and I to stay with her free of charge. We had also brought a straggler. AB who regular readers will remember from the Caribbean was also in NY for the night and he made good use of the couch for the night. We checked in at nightime, changed in to some fresh clothes and made our way down Broadway to Times Square. What a place. Honestly, photos do not do it justice so it would be folly of me to expect that I could describe it with enough detail. The same can be said about the whole week in New York. Times Square for me was a New York welcome mat, as if to say “You’re here!!!” It sets the tone for the whole city: loud, bright, big, in your face and charming in an ‘only in America’ way. We wandered around, in and out of various concept stores and before we knew it was 2am. We walked back uptown to our hotel room and crashed for about 5 hours before Lib marshalled the troops and we were off again. First stop was the Gugenheim- famed architectural design and renowned Museum collection. Disappointingly the façade was covered with scaffholding due to refurbishment and inside was reduced from five floors to two. Unsurprisingly the cost did not change. The limited display was impressive enough but I guess with the name came expectations and we left feeling a little short changed. We made our way back over Central Park, cross-town, to the Museum of Natural History. Now THAT is what I call a museum. Lots of bones, fossils, animals, Incans, Aboriginies and much more. Rosie was getting a little cranky after all the walking so we mistakenly got his hopes up for the whale exhibition. When we arrived at the whale exhibition to see the exhibit closed sign I immediately made my way away from Rosie in the full knowledge of what was about to happen. Unfortunately for Libby and AB they had not yet seen Rosie make a scene. Anybody who has ever seen a small child in a supermarket make a scene knows exactly what took place that fateful day in the American Museum of Natural History. He grabbed AB’s arm and cried real tears. A large part of me thinks that this emotion was the result of both liver failure and exhaustion but I can’t help but believe he really just wanted to see the whales. That night we bade farewell to AB and went food shopping. Shopping in NY is an experience and one I am unlikely to forget. It is a madhouse and no one is afraid to use elbows. When one finally has all the items they need you make your way to the check out. Each aisle has four checkouts and God help you if you don’t hear “next! called out.” Attitude is served up in super size and is the only thing they give you for free.

In the full realisation that it took me 500 or so words to describe the first day in NY I shall shorten the rest of the week to dot points.

Highlights included:
• Cruise around Manhattan Island to the Statue of Liberty and between New Jersey, Brooklyn and Staten Island.
• Going to the top of the Empire State Building (on the only overcast day of the week).
• Metropolitan Museum- absolutely fantastic and huge. Would need a week to see this properly.
• Museum of Modern Art- Andy Warhol, Van Gough, Picasso and some great contemporary art.
• Grand Central Station- could be a museum in itself but still functions as an efficicent train station.
• NY state library- so many books and a beautiful building
• Wall St- cool bull statue down the road
• World Trade Centre- was surprisingly emotional standing at the sight looking at some of the photos. A bit surreal standing in a spot you feel like you already know when you have never been there before. I suppose a strange one to have in a ‘highlight’ list but it is to be in a spot of such enormous historical and current importance.
• Tiffany & Co.
• Apple Store- my heaven on earth
• FAE Schwarz (Tom Hanks in BIG- giant keyboard)
• UN building- was closed when we went but nice building and some strange stautes out the front
• Strawberry Fields (tribute to John Lennon in Central Park opposite of where he was shot)
• Little Italy
• China Town… honestly it is endless, I’m sure I’ve left a lot out.

Aside from all the sights I had one my best nights on tour out on the town in NY. It wasn’t necessarily where we were, because on our budgets we couldn’t afford to drink at the ritzy NY spots, but really just the people I was with. I couldn’t have asked for two better people to be traveling with and it was never more evident than on this night- certainly the parts I remember. The parts I couldn’t remember were ably captured on video by Libby and to my horror the next morning I discovered I had brought some of the dance moves I picked up in the Caribbean to NY. I will never forget the look on Rosie’s face when I showed him the footage of us and his words will never, ever leave me… “not in New York… you can’t pull that off in New York… The Caribbean but not New York…”

NY is massive and every corner has something to see. I mean even the street art is a level above anywhere else and the buskers would win Australian Idol. The beggars even do a rap for you. If you can’t already tell we were absolutely overwhelmed with things to do in NY and I can honestly see a time where I would work/live/study there, if only for a year or so.
At the end of an exhausting week we were scheduled to fly to Boston but instead we decided to get a bus to Washington DC. As well as this it was also time for Rosie and I to say goodbye after 9 weeks or so on tour. To honour he and the time we shared together I penned a poem, titled: Dreams and Smells

Dreams and Smells

For a long time it was a dream
For a long time it was only in our heads
But it wasn’t long before our drink was Malibu, not Beam
On a budget, money put us together, not 2 beds
The hot sun made us burnt, “mate, pass me the cream”

South America was fun
We saw Chile and in Brazil the soccer
Our friend’s friend was held up with a knife, luckily not a gun
Remember our friend who picked up the shocker?
After the Inca Trail there was another mountain climb, I asked if you wanted to do it and you said we’ll run

Next stop was the West Indies
For the cricket and Aussie victory we went
When we drank, we acted like kids in kindy
Andew Symonds was great, there’s a county side called Kent
Fortunately on the beaches, it wasn’t windy

After that it was the USA
To meet Lib and to change the pace
First off it was Cali-for-nye-ay
Lib taught us that drinking is not a race
In NY, like a local, you often said “fucken A”

Now we are apart but at our peek
Me in Russian and Scandanavia
You in the Islands that are Greek
Just in time to better our behaviour
But at least now, our clothes do not reek

The night before we parted we shared a victory cigar and a couple of beers to compared notes on an unforgettable and never repeatable trip.

Dry your eyes a moment before you move onto the rest.

I absolutely loved DC and would recommend it to anyone between anti and pro-American if for no other reason than the grand architecture. Aside from the architecture I believe it goes some way to explaining American culture. Although it is difficult to decide whether the monuments are the product of or a partial cause of staunch American patriotism, it is impossible to deny their link. The view from the Lincoln Statue across the reflective pond, over the WWII memorial, past the Washington memorial to the Capitol is something to behold. Each one in itself is testament to its country and together they are awe-inspiring. All in all we saw the White House (not as cool as you’d think), Capitol, Supreme Court from afar, Lincoln, Washington Monument, WWII memorial, Korean War memorial and many great government buildings in between. We asked a guard what we had to do to get a tour of the White House and he asked if we had booked 9 months ago… Next time. Lib was quite sick so I finally I caved and said enough was enough. Our quickest stop yet was over and we went back to NY to catch our flight to Boston.

Well Boston was a little miserable weather wise. We were absolutely stuffed so it didn’t bother us so much and we decided to catch our breath and tone down the the tourist stuff. We walked the Freedom Trail and I delighted in learning more about American independence. Many of the founding fathers (Franklin and Hancock to name a couple) were from Boston and of course the historically symbolic Boston Tea Party occurred in Boston… dah. We also went and visited the JFK museum and that was a terrific museum autobiographically on JFK and his presidency. Highlights for me were the exhibits on the Cuban missile crisis and his Irish ancestory (including his Catholicism). The next day was to Cambridge to see Harvard and the Masachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It was pissing rain so we hid in their amazing bookstore and I accidentally bought three books and Lib accidentally bought two. Boston wasn’t full of highlights but it’s a pretty city and it allowed us to recharge our batteries a little. Next stop was to Littleton, New Hampshire to visit Lib’s aunty and uncle.

The first thing of note about Littleton is that Lib had only ever met her aunty twice and had not ever met her uncle. She was a little nervous but I reassured her that it would be fine and besides, we might see a bear. Well not only did it all go swimmingly but we saw heaps of bears!!! And two moose (they say meese)! It was altogether a fantastic couple of days with Lib’s relatives that was topped by some amazing home cooking from Helen and an amazing tour of the area from Dick. Dick is a classic guy- I hope no American park rangers read my blog, maybe I should give them alias’… Anyway I digress. Dick and Helen (or should I say… Peter and Gina) live in the woods where many wild animals roam. Over the past twelve years Dick has fed and slowly trained some of the local black bears. Every year after hybernation Dick helps them to renourish themselves for a few weeks. He has strategically placed buckets around the house that he fills with seeds (I was a little disappointed with seeds I must say, I was hoping they’d eat meat, not sure why). Well when we get there and Dick picks us up in the morning and says he has to feed the bears I think to myself, ‘yeah righto mate’. I’m an Australian I know this one, we do the same thing and tell tourists about the sharks and the kangaroos. Anyway, we get to their place and as soon as we get out of the car Lib says “Cade… there’s a f&*king bear”. And she was bloody right. Less than five metres away stood a gorgeous 400lb black bear. Thankfully it didn’t attack and Dick calmed us down before he began his feeding ritual. Walking around to his buckets to feed not only bears but birds and squirrels as well. The place is a genuine nature reserve. Soon enough the place is literally crawling with black bears including 2 older cubs and 2 very young cubs that were too scared and stayed up in a tree. Aside from the nature side of things the whole area around Littleton is beautiful and I’d love to go back in winter to ski. The flume and the basin were great sights to see. As well as all this it was really nice to be around Lib when she was ‘reunited’ with her aunty and was able to meet her uncle, cousin and cousin-in-law. We all had a great lunch on our final day and the next morning Helen and Dick drove us to Concord where we caught our bus back to Boston for our flight to Moscow.

If you’ve read all of this in one guy it was a Herculean effort because it took me three goes to write it. I apologise for the length and if it came across a little flat. I was missing Rosie’s diary notes that have been the backbone of my blogs so far and I will attempt to keep my own diary notes from now on to liven it up a bit again!!!

We are currently in Belestrand, Norway. We arrived here today after a night in Oslo and 8 days in Russia (Moscow and St Petersburg). I will attempt to blog again soon as to avoid a backlog of information in one go again. Next stop is Bergen, Norway and after that it’s Stockholm and Gothenburg in Sweden before London via Amsterdam and then Paris. Stay tuned.

For non-facebookers, click the links below to see my photo albums on facebook.

LA & Seattle

Vancouver/Whistler

NY1

NY2

NY3

Washington DC

Boston/Littleton

Russia photos are up as well so you can check them out even if you don't have the stories yet to match:

Russia

Hope my fancy links work because I've never done it this way.

To all the breakfast customers: missing my lattes? I am...

Posted by cadeabroad 18:05 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Caribbean Comes to an End

The Run Home

As my mother has just reminded me its been nye on a month since I've written so as I sit here in the den of Tom and Genevieve's amazing house in Vancouver after a day of skiing in 300cm snow at the end of Spring (just a few more words to see if I can get in the Guiness Book of Records for the longest ever recoreded sentence), I begin to write.

As many know I've been in North America now for a nearly a week, however because of the length of time since I last published I have decided (in consultation with my esteemed colleagues) that I will concentrate solely on the Caribbean. There will be highs and there will be lows, there will be times when you laugh and times when you cry, but mostly, there will be times.

The last time I wrote we were about to depart Antigua for Barbados. The Indians must have got a good rate with the bookies back home so it worked out we flew there to see the world's greatest ever cricket side play Ireland, a bunch of drunk amateurs. Sort of like me, so I really respected them. Rosie and I lobbed in with no accommadation, like everywhere else we go. After wondering around in the sun for some time we found a hidden gem and called it home for a few days. Regular readers and facebook watchers will note this from my album where we had a single bed and a bottle of malibu. The next day we simply meandered to the beaches and organised our accommodation for the final, which was also a hidden gem. It was also what Rosie and I (and many others) like to call the pre-game hydration day. The only purpose of the day before game day is, in full knowledge that you'll spend the next two days either drunk or recovering from being drunk, drink as much water as possible, eat as much food as possible and get as much sleep as possible.

So game day arrived and we had the Irish. Word spread as we lined up that we won the toss and Punter had decided to bowl. We cursed the Tasmanian and made our way to the stand. We missed the first over so when we got in it was 2 down for none. "Rosie, hit the bar this game is going to be over in ten minutes and we have 8 drink tickets". 8 Drink tickets later, it was game over, before noon, and Rosie and I were throwing KFC chicken at each other in what has since been described by Caribbean authorities as "the most disgusting human behaviour we have witnessed, mun, keep it up." When cricket games start that early it is looking for trouble, and in this case trouble didn't even hide. At some stage I decided it would be interesting to see what the inside of a giant cardboard box looked like and as I was still deciding a random Australian shirtfronted me and a playful gesture. A few tumbles and broken thongs later I was back on my feet asking if someone saw where my drink went in all the tumbling. With some 8 or so hours to kill before the nightlife kicked in we were left little choice but to fill the time refreshing our ever-present thirsts. We found a little place near the ground and played cricket with the other 4 million Australians there. It was here we met Sue, to whom many didn't appear to be what we'd describe as 'cricket type' but could play off her pads like M Waugh and hook and pull with the competence of R Ponting. The boys appreciated her work and we all shouted her name and danced around her a bit. The 8 hours were suitably filled and we went to a local establishment known as Harbour Lights. Filled with yucky Aussies and silly Poms, this place got a little out of hand. Please see facebook for my photographic exhibition of how to dance on a table and point at a camera at the same time, riveting.

  • ** This is not even half way. At this point I advise all readers whom have had my mother thrust this blog in their face to speed read, politely thank her and say "what a wonderful son you have... sorry I didn't catch your name strange lady!!! LET ME DO MY SHOPPING I'M AT COLES!!!"

It was at Harbour Lights that a pom poured a drink over my head and I might, after some extensive thought on the matter, have said, in a physical sense, that I didn't much appreciate what he'd done and perhaps some retribution was in order. Anyway, all was resolved quickly by the diplomatic AB and I was consoled by the fact that he was Pom and it was unlikely that he'd ever not be a Pom #
# In a cricket sense, I quite like the English.
That night I left a little earlier than Rosie but he tells a great story of being taken home by a taxi driver driving a BMW who requested a tip to which Rosie replied, "mate, you're driving a BMW"

So the next day came and I followed the usual ritual of comtemplating suicide and giving up drinking and doing neither. There was little respite because we were on a flight to Grenada. Our usual method of not arranging accommodation paid off again when we found ourselves in the conference room of a hotel on the best beach strip in Grenada. Whilst the conference room sufficed it was obvious that it unless we were going to hire a chiropractor to follow us around for a couple of months we needed somewhere else to stay: enter Mr Henry. Mr Henry had come about after a phone call to a number we'd got off some girls who'd got it from some guys. Anyway, Mr Henry's was "15 minutes out of town (read 35 on winding rodes then a walk up Mt Everest)". He picked us up from our "hotel" and drove us to Brooklyn, just out of Concord (get out your google earths people.) Mr Henry is an ex-military type and so he had the nickname Sarge from other locals. He was at least twice my size so I preferred the name Mr Henry above all others. I could write a book on Mr Henry so I'll do my best to keep it short in this forum (still finding a publisher for 'Mr Henry: The Chronicles'). Our first impression of Mr Henry's was that he had cable, sure we couldn't see the TV because the bird sized mosquitos were swarming between our eyes and the TV, but he had cable nonetheless. After examining the situation more thoroughly we became worried. Mr Henry's shower only had hot (REAL HOT), you had to manually fill Mr Henry's toilet, the mosquito net was harder to sleep with than Rosie and perhaps worst of all, Mr Henry ate our food AND drank our rum. Did I mention bird sized mosquitos and man eating F^&KING spiders! We had only booked with our lady for a few nights so immediately thoughts raced as to where else we could stay. We drank a bit and soon enough thoughts ceased to be thought of at all and the ones we did have revolved around not moving too much because I think I'm still drunk from two days ago. So it was Mr Henry's that we called home in Grenada for some 9 or so days. First thing we did was stock up on anti-insect stuff. Massive containers of 25% deet repellent, extra strength insect killer and coils for the bedroom. Operation shock and awe had begun. Whilst this may seem an over-reaction, it was honestly the only course of action. The operation was a complete success and all of a sudden Mr Henry's became a whole lot more liveable (we hadn't had the toilet or shower fixed and he still used our food and drink). Despite our chemical response, we had long accepted that Mr Henry's house was a small part of a much larger eco-system. It was literally in amongst the forest that was his backyard and lizards, spiders, mosquitos and mice all roamed alike.

The next day was the day I'd started to dread- game day. Sri Lanka v Australia. Sri Lanka had decided that Australia was over-rated and rested its two best players to add to their third best player who was injured on the side-lines. Thank God for rum and drink tickets in these situations. (Author's note: game reports are subjective and have been constructed using the fragile memory of the author. All game reports should be verified using a reputable source such as baggygreen.com.au or cricket.com.au). Although I dread these days and spend most of the days in between games wondering how I'll survive another, I always seem to bring my A game. The Sri Lankan game will be remembered for the flock of new Australians who had come over who brought fresh enthusiasm and a lot of stupidity. Honourable mention goes to a fella who went by the name of Switch. A make shift slippery side had been constructed on the hill and was being used by all and sundry. Switch decided that that was boring and proceeded to do back flips and the like off the railing. What resulted was backwackers and belly flops onto hard turf. Some days later from hospital Switch would note that he regretted his actions. That day we snuck our friends Krafchek and Wadadli into the party stand and things got mess (again). To skip a few details and still give the reader a good understanding, at 3am the next morning Rosie was negotiation to hire a couple of jet skis with some locals. Logic prevailed and jet skis were not hired. Buses didn't run until six so we decided to use the pool of one of the hotels. A quick dip and sleep on the banana lounge and we were on the bus back to Henry's.

  • ** I'd say this is probably nearly halfway.

One of the benefits of staying with Mr Henry was his close proximity to the Concord Falls. The Lonely Planet describes the Concord Falls as "majestic flows of water seemingly falling from the heavens". It also notes that admission is free. So we walk up Mt Evererst and then its younger, longer, slightly less steep cousin to arrive at Concord Falls without two dimes to rub together. "$2US please" "F&*K IT!...... How about we go in for free instead" "We're running a business here" "S^&T!" So with this we decided to stick it to the man, be adventurous and find our own goddam waterfall. Facebookers will know that what we found was a pond barely big enough to cover our ankles. Still, we saved $2US each and the eels didn't bite us and the shrimp didn't hurt when they did.

So we killed the time again to game day with some sightseeing, beaching and generally just killing time. The dreaded game day arrived and I made the usual promise of not drinking so quickly and perhaps it wouldn't kill me if I remembered the second innings. Not to be. New Zealand followed the alarming trend of resting your best player against the best team and gave Shane Bond a spell. Typically, we wiped the seat with the Kiwis and enjoyed every bit. The day was spent drinking rum, making sheep noises and generally abusing Kiwi outfielders. At one stage I retrieved some white rum (70% alcohol, 90% of the cup) and coke for the boys and brought them back. I vividly remember turning to Rosie and noting that this rum would be remembered forever as the turning point of the day. The next day, we looked back and wondered what might've been if we had have spilt our rums and never drunk them- Sliding Doors. The rest was a blur. I have since seem film of me hiding under a table, eating a curry in less than 3 and a half minutes (I am now the Curry Man), dancing to Freddy Mercury and the boys in one of many Queen classics and being arm in arm with S Tait, G Blewett and D Fleming. When I caught up with Rosie later on he had by then lost out in a trade for his trendy shirt for one of the most disgusting Hawaiian shirts ever put to print. How did that happen I wondered but never aired vocally.

Some more time passed and it was time for St Lucia, the host of the Cricket World Cup semi-final. Alexander's guest house was home fot the time there and it was a great establishment. St Lucia put on street parties as a welcome to their guests and it was here that I ate great food and got diarrhoea. Regardless, it was worth it. This time determined to remember a classic match between two cricketing giants, Australia and South Aftrica, I swore not to drink until the second dig. History shows South Africa lost four wickets for 28 and I hadn't factored that into my agreement with myself. Besides which we received 12 drink tickets for the semi and it would've been silly to drink them all in one dig. 12 drink tickets later and I arrived home a full 10 hours before any previous game day. A new record, arriving home at 8pm.

The final. I'm sure much has been written and even more said about the debacle of a final, but I ask one and all to put aside their prejudices for just a few moments as I recall the day.

Like a kid on Christmas morning I woke early and charged into Rosie's room to bounce on his bed and nag him to wake. By the time he'd roused the bacon was sizzling and I was giddy. The weather looked good and our time had come. Talk at the brekkie table centred around fending off Malinga and Murali and getting Jayasaria early. We caught a cab to the ground and by now I had confirmed I wasn't in a dream, I was living it. A sign near the entrance pronounced "JESUS- 2007 NOT OUT" and I wondered to myself what position JC batted in and why someone hadn't declared his knock earlier for the team. Some of the other boys left to try and scalp their tickets and I pitied them for having to worry about business on such a grand day. We arrived at about 8am and found our seats for the day. The beer was being served until 9am which is just as well because with 16 drink tickets and a few nerves this game day could've ended like the others. I used a ticket on a water and began to day dream about the day ahead. After watching the warm ups and building myself to fever pitch, the skies opened. All of a sudden my mind turned unbridaled joy to incredible fear. Fear that both teams would get 20 overs or worse, we could be back here tomorrow and the weather could be the same and Australia declared the winner without a ball being bowled. Looking up I saw no hope for a match to be played, it was hopeless. I sunk into a deep depression and wondered how long it would take to use the last 15 drink tickets. And then it happened. Just as I stood to head to the bar, as if by divine intervention, the rain stopped and the skies cleared. I thought to myself, this time aloud, "Jesus Christ- 2007 not out".
$200US seems like a lot of money to pay for a game of cricket but as I sit to write this I can honestly say that I would pay twice that see Gilchrist bat like that live again. He was simply awesome. I wasn't the only one to note before the game the one day game had passed Gilly and that perhaps Australia were starting at 1/0 with his form. How wrong and foolish I'd been. Simply put, awesome. It was brutal but sweet. Awesome. In retrospect, he took the game from them, but at that stage we didn't know it. Solid contributions came from everyone around him but Gilly was the man that made our total unreachable. With as much confidence as one can have when playing a team with Jayasaria, Sangakara and the in form Tilakaratne, we believed we were going to win. An early wicket reinforced our confidence until it looked like Jayasaria and Sangakara were going to do the impossibe. The run rate was as good as ours and they were seeing them like beach balls. Enter Brad Hogg. A party stand favourite for the entire tournament, Hoggy seems to save his best for the big games. His first over brought the scalp of Sangakara and finally the game really was over. Michael Clarke bowled a Sav Rocca that didn't bounce to claim Jayasaria if it wasn't over before it was all done now. The rest followed meekly and then it happened. It got dark, real dark. Being Steve Waugh's apprentice it was no surprise Ponting brought the quicks on from both ends in fading late. What was a surprise was being told the silly Sri Lankans were willing to face it. In farcical circumstances, after already celebrating the win, Australia was forced to bowl in little to no light to end the match. As the crowd chanted Waltzing Matilda as Sri Lankas last rites were read, seeing Ricky Ponting turn and gesture to sing louder was one of the happiest moments in my life. Little did I know that within hours the moment would be superseded. Of course, we won. We sang, we drank, we danced, we watched the ceremony and we did it all again, singing, drinking and dancing until we were kicked out. It was simply the most incredible time of my life and certainly as happy as I can ever remember feeling. To describe what happened next is difficult, in all honesty I don't believe any story could do justice to what I am attempting to tell. As Rosie and I departed the stadium we veered left, towards a door in search of food. We'd been kicked out but I wasn't ready to go yet. Remembering some of my father's best advice I turned to Rosie and said "walk and act like you own the place and there's nowhere we won't get in", Rosie, not sensing that I was aiming for a dramatic motivation angle that required no response from him, said "mate, I'm in board shorts and I lost my shirt hours ago, we not getting in anywhere". I saw a lady carrying a stack of boxes and instead of seeing a lady carrying a stack of boxes I saw a golden ticket. "ma'am, can I help you with those?" and bang we're on an elevator going up. We step out into the presidents room and find ourselves a seat in the viewing room. A young waiter walks over and asks how we got here and we responded that we'd bullshitted our way in. He grabbed us a couple of cold ones and let us be. Sitting in our seat wondering if life could get any better, Rosie noticed his seat had a nametag on it- it read 'The Hon. Sir Garfield Sobres'. Thrilled, I turned to see that mine read 'Mr Malcolm Speed'. I promptly peeled it from its seat and placed it on my shirt. Still wondering if life could get any better we at first wondered if we could get on the ground and then devised a plan. Moments later, Cade Elg and Michael Rose stood atop the pitch where moments earlier Australia had claimed the most prestigous trophy in world cricket. In typical me fashion, my camera was out of battery after I exhausted it during the day but for evidence we took some photos using my shitty camera phone of us playing some shots on the pitch. I broke off a chunk of pitch and took some sawdust from the bowlers run as keepsakes to put beside. As we walked back from the pitch we thought we'd have a crack at the change rooms but our luck had finally ran out and they sent us packing. On the way out we checked out some of the ICC offices and someone noted that I looked younger than I do on TV and I thanked them, forgetting I had a name badge that read Mr Malcolm Speed. We helped ourselves to some water from the water cooler and made our way home, floating on air. We weren't literally floating on air so we were going to need some transport. The first car I asked happened to be heading in our direction so we jumped in; our luck was back. Rosie and I didn't need a drink because we were high on life. We had planned to go out but after a couple of pina coladas I was stuffed and so went to bed, so completely satisfied with the last month and with a big smile on my face.

  • ** The day after this story was completed we began a 40 hour bender that included a tour of the malibu factory. We left the Caribbean in one piece of the 2nd of May with the most amazing memories, some of which we may never remember. Special shout outs to AB, Jacko, the Perth boys and girl, the girls, Lethal and Wadadli.

Stay tuned next week when the boys catch up with Libby for North America. Here's a preview: "Disney Land is the happiest place on Earth. The roller coasted that went upside down was amazing" and "we never planned on skiing and that was what made it so special!" and "just like the movies, we were at a frat party drinking out of red cups!" Hope you enjoyed the teaser.

  • *********** Someone sort my footy team out or I won't be back until October at best! I was coming home for bloody finals.

Posted by cadeabroad 21:41 Archived in Barbados Comments (0)

Antigua

Fun in the sun

sunny
View Around the world on cadeabroad's travel map.

Well...

Okay I'll just say it. We stayed in a brothel for 10 days. No big deal. Besides, at $7.50US a night compared to the next cheapest at $40US, whose worried about the rotten smell in the crusty sheets, the outrageous heat or the giant mosquitoes? We don't think the brothel was active for the world cup, but who could be sure?

Now that is out of my system I can digress. Having arrived from Cusco where we lived like kings for peanuts, we were ill-prepared for the high prices and low quality in most of Antigua. It's hard to describe Antigua but maybe the best comparison is that it is somewhat like Bali, purely a tourist destination and in pretty ordinary knick. The main difference is that after currency conversion, things cost roughly the same for us as they would in Melbourne. But we were here for the cricket so being the purists we are we weren't going to let stinky sheets get in the way of some great cricket. Our first match was Australia v Bangladesh, hardly a promoter's dream. We were thrilled that overnight rain had ceased and a beautiful day was gifted to us from the Gods. Arriving at around 9:40 for the 9:30 start we were surprised to see the game hadn't started. Apparantly there were some wet patches that needed drying but the game would be underway soon. Not to be. about four hours and fifty rums later the game started; I remember about 8 balls of the Bangladesh innings and slept through the Australia dig. Although I remember little, the things that stick in my mind is watching the ground staff use foam pads to try soak the water up and the others sleep or have their lunch while we waited for the game to start. Apparantly the two super soppers in Antigua had broken down and there is a story going around that they wouldn't let the repair man in at the door so he told them to bugger off and went home. Needless to say I learn a lesson about Caribbean rum. It is strong and they give healthy pours. After my sleep I recovered nicely and was out until the early hours in English Harbour where Rosie managed to interrupt Adam Gilchrist during dinner and get his photo taken. Other highlights of the day was being able to SWIM AT THE CRICKET!!! And having Ricky Ponting kick a sherrin into the party stand while we were waiting to keep us entertained.

So our first cricket experience wasn't a dream start but I feel we took something away from it all. The next day was a bit of a battle and we spent it wishing it was over. Rosie slept a good 18 hours so we made up an April fools joke that Gilly and Symonds had been put in a lock up and that it must have happened sometime after he had his photo taken. We delighted in asking him what he thought the papers would pay for his photo with Gilly given it was the night the Australian vice-captain was locked up. That night he told everyone he knew and hence started a vicious rumour- shit bloke. That night we went to a gig called Shirley Heights, which would've been good except we were all as hungover as ten men. I learnt the fine art of bribery and flicked the lady cooking the BBQ $15EC (about (7.50AUD) and she filled me up with BBQ'd goods. Everyone followed me and for once we were well-fed for very little money. I should mention Australia actually won the match, but I'm learning the result is a footnote in ones World Cup experience.

So two days after the cricket and we were feeling well again. Taxis are expensive so we made the best decision of our stay and hired a car. This gave us massive flexibility because Antigua's 365 beaches (one for everyday, some marketing guy in Antigua is pleased with himself) are quite far apart, the roads are horrible, the cabs expensive and whats a bus? Rosie saw a nimbus (a car for the less enlightened, one he and his family have driven since Jesus was on the half-back flank for Bethlehem) and this may be the highlight of his trip. We drove to a beautiful beach called Darkwood and I finally felt like I was in the Caribbean. The rest of the week was spent sampling the 365 beaches and as an idea how amazing they are the four of us all had differing opinions on our favourite. The highlight though was getting rolling drunk on a couple of crates of Wadadli's (Antiguan beer) at Half Moon Beach. We invented an esky in the sand consisting of a hole, a garbage bag, ice and a wet towel (I really feel if put in dire circumstances in the dessert, we could survive). We met a lovely bloke who owned the bar called Harry and he fed us some good grub pretty cheap and was going to join us for one when he locked up. But we left a little early and as we were leaving he gave us a massive bowl of some spicy popcorn so we gave him a few of our beers! We didn't need them. Other than the drinking though the beaches were stunning, the best I've ever seen. Torquoise waters, white sand and palm trees. It really was paradise.

After all this beaching we were ready for another game of cricket. After 8 days it finally arrived in the form of Australia v England and we were champing at the bit. We arrived early, found a good spot and had a gatorade to hydrate ourselves. It was time.
England won the toss and had a bat. Tait finally found his rythm and with sheer pace got rid of Vaughn (he's no good) and Strauss.
From there I was worried we'd rout them but fortunately they have a South African in their team with some intestinal fortitude. Unfortuntely he's an egomaniac and batted for his century instead of his team and England posted a pretty miserable total. We stayed sobre for as long as possible and watched Australia do it easy. We really gave it to Pietersen who had the misfortune of fielding close to the party stand. He took it like a man. During England's knock Brad Hodge had copped it but he gave it back and it was thoroughly entertaining listening to him sledge the English and a local Rasta who was having a crack at him about his waist. Hodge reminded him that he paid his money to watch him play and told him to save his money to watch Lara play for the last time because the Windies aren't going any further in this tournament. Really good stuff. The good thing about the grounds is that you feel like you are amongst it. You can hear the calling between the wickets and a fair bit of banter. As the day progressed and the rums got stronger (I can't stress enough how strong they pour rum, when they add the 3.4mls of pepsi in, its still rum brown) interest in the cricket faded. The game finished slowly and our cramped room hosted some guests before we went out. The night went forever and the sun was up by the time our heads hit the pillow.

Although we had fun in Antigua, I must admit I was pleased when it was time to move on. The whole time I had an indifferent feeling about the place and the shoddiness of the housing etc was a bit depressing. Also I'm getting used to being in places short times so I guess I was just ready to move on. To add to it we were there for Easter which was terrible. Absolutely nothing open and no chocolate. At least in Melbourne you get chocolate and the ODD shop open. NOTHING OPEN on both Good Friday and Easter Monday. At least in Melbourne you get the footy on Easter Monday. Anyway we are now safe in Barbados sharing one single bed between us. We made friends with the lady here and she has given us a matress. Its actually a really nice place except we are in a small room but we are now well and truly used to sharing a bed (there were three in the bed at one stage in Antigua, a bloke called AB lobbed with us after both cricket games). There is even internet here, a kitchen, a TV and we have a fan!!!
All in all we are having an absolute ball.
I have started using facebook so all those who are signed up can check our albums, all those who aren't I will post the URL's of the albums so you can view them.
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=3445&l=a16b6&id=632495434
(there is no space in the address but it didnt fit on one line)

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2910&l=fc5d9&id=632495434
(same again with the space)

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2906&l=32841&id=632495434
(and same again with the space)

Copy and paste them in your browser to the pics.

Our next game is on Friday against the Irish and I've heard there's a few here and I feel like a Guiness so I might sound them out. The English team is here also so there'll be a lot of Poms about to have a drink with.

Hope everyone is well and the dogs have a win this weekend.

Posted by cadeabroad 13:36 Archived in Antigua and Barbuda Comments (1)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 9) Page [1] 2 »