Tag Archives: backpacking Europe

Two Thousand Twelve

30 Dec

Can you believe it… 2013 is just a day away. It brings about reminiscing the year that was 2012, and what a great year it was. One of the best. For us, there were many personal milestones (travelling the world) and professional ones (taking the next steps in our careers back home) with lots of very special moments in between. We’re so very grateful for all that the Universe has given us this year and the promises that 2013 brings. Here are our highlights of 2012:

London Night Out

Canary Wharf Pub

{Hanging out with good mates before they jump on a plane back to Australia.}

Paris

{Spending our second wedding anniversary in Paris, one of the most romantic cities in the world. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate it.}

D&M Hens and Bucks

{Celebrating others’ milestones and friendships – there were plenty during 2012, including Derrin and Mariska’s wedding.}

Our London Home

{Our London home was so special to us during 2012 as we tried to soak up as much as we could of the city and our suburb during the last six months of the year.}

St Paul's London

London at night

Olympic medal!

{Being one of the first to run in the London Olympic Stadium.}

London Egg Hunt

{The Great London Egg Hunt and the interesting trips into streets and suburbs we hadn’t even stepped foot in.}

Amsterdam

{Our trip to Holland in the Spring. We will never forget the ‘amazingness’ that is the tulip fields of the country. Just stunning.}

Banstead Woods

{Our trip to Banstead Woods. The first time we heard of the bluebells that pop up in these woods, we couldn’t resist making the trip to take a look for ourselves. In the shade of the dense foliage, the bluebells make for a pretty sight.}

Ministry of Sound

{Experiencing a night at the famous nightclub Ministry of Sound.}

With Mum at Harrods

With Mum in Edinburgh

{My Mum making the oh-so-long plane trip to see us in London and experiencing Scotland with her.}

Matt playing at St Andrews

{Matt experiencing a game of golf where the game itself started… St Andrews Golf Course in Scotland.}

Melk

{Seeing one of the most beautiful monasteries in the whole world, Melk Abbey in Austria.}

Chelsea Flower Show

{Visiting the famous Chelsea Flower Show.}

London Summer Days

{Soaking up the very first Summer day rays in London for the year from one of the most beautiful spots in the city – Primrose Hill.}

David Guetta

{Seeing David Guetta at Alexandria Palace – an amazing DJ and an amazing venue.}

Diamond Jubilee

{Being in London for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.}

Wimbledon

{Going to Wimbledon.}

Saying goodbye to London

{Saying goodbye to friends we were leaving behind in true British style… by dressing up in the Best of British.}

Friends

Matt at Aston Martin

{More goodbyes as we say farewell to work and our amazing colleagues.}

Last day in London

Tower Bridge

{Spending our very last day in London by revisiting those sights we will miss the most. Such a sad day!}

{The amazing countries we travelled through on our trek back to Australia…}

Prague

{…Prague.}

Krakow

{…Krakow.}

Budapest

{…Budapest.}

Slovenia

{…Slovenia.}

Croatia

Dubrovnik

{…Croatia.}

Rome

Lucca

Bologna

Venice

{…Italy.}

Noni and Gez Wedding

{… including witnessing and celebrating the wedding of Noni and Gez in the Cinque Terre.}

Egypt

{… Egypt.}

Jordan

{… Jordan.}

Dubai

{… Dubai.}

Singapore

{… and Singapore.}

Flying over Toowoomba

{Flying over Toowoomba on our flight back home.}

Sunshine Coast

{Going back to visit the place we use to call home – the Sunshine Coast.}

Family Christmas

{Spending Christmas with our family again.}

HAPPY NEW YEAR from M&M x

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Italy at its best

10 Sep

It seems like a lifetime ago that we were in Italy. In fact, it was only 17 days ago when we left and we’ve done so much since. Italy is one of those countries that I don’t think anyone could get sick of. We did a whirlwind tour of three weeks, covering the major bits of the country. Here’s out whirlwind blog to match:

All Roads Lead to Rome
We started in Rome, arriving from Dubrovnik. We did what anyone would do when they first arrive to Italy and set out to experience the best of everything, namely espresso, pizza and gelato (like Caffe Sant’ Eustahio, pizzeria ai Marmi and San Crispino for those who want to try!) We took in all of the sites like the Trevi Fountain (one of our most favourites), the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, Capitaline Museum, the Vatican and beautiful piazza after beautiful piazza all over the city. Rome is also full of fountains spewing out water that is as chilled as if it was straight out of the fridge, the perfect way to splash your hands and feet to cool off. We also took a day trip further south of the city to Naples and Pompeii; and Rome was where we started at least one pizza or pasta dish every day (a good idea at the time!)

Beautiful Florence
Reluctantly leaving the epic city of Rome, we then took a slow train up to Florence and based ourselves there for seven days while we travelled out to the rest of Tuscany. We explored Siena, Lucca and Pisa and of course the city of Florence itself, not only on foot but also by Fiat 500 (complete with wine, olive oil tasting and delicious Tuscan food). We also got our hands stuck in and covered in flour during a pasta making course (we have recipes to test on you all back home – look out!), shopped for leather, saw David, the Uffizi and Pont Vecchio and most importantly, set our eyes on what has to be one of the most beautiful landscapes anywhere… the Tuscan countryside with its patchwork of wheat fields, olive trees and vineyards, rolling hills and medieval villages dotted in between. Oh, and one pasta or pizza dish a day… still going strong!

Bella Ragu and Ferrari’s
Next up, we dropped by the city of Bologna for a couple of nights. We were there for two things – so Matt could drive a Ferrari and so we could all sample the deliciousness that is Ragu pasta (or Bolognese) in the town where it was invented. Delicious? Yes! Fresh? Oh yes! Fulfilling? 100 percent! Dare we say it, but it was probably the most delicious Bolognese we’ve tasted (although we’ll give it a good go following our pasta making course!) While Matt spent our only full day there speeding along the highways of Maranello (a town close to Bologna and the home of Ferrari) in a Ferrari F430 Spyder at 160km, Steve and I took a leisurely bike ride at, I would say, 5km tops around the quiet city of Bologna.

Venezia
Yet another train and we arrive in Venice. Ahhh Venice… what can we say about it? It’s a city you could visit again and again. It’s romantic, fun, beautiful, historic and just lovely. We spent four days wandering around the narrow pedestrian streets, over sweet little bridges that cross over canals with passing gondolas and their gondoliers crooning sweet Italian songs. It’s a place where you come to get lost – trying to work out the labyrinth of narrow streets on a map is too time consuming – and to soak up the beautiful atmosphere of Piazza San Marco, the epicentre of the ‘floating’ city. It’s a place to take your time, stop for a canal-side antipasto picnic and watch the world go by, which we did most days. And lastly, pizza or pasta a day… starting to wane… a lot!

Milan and Eloping in the Cinque Terre
The end of our time in Italy was the beginning of a very special time for two very special friends. We made a beeline for Milan, not only to shop and enjoy some much-needed down time, but to meet up with Noni and Gez. They were sorting papers for their wedding ceremony in Riomaggiore, one of the five villages of the Cinque Terre, a few days later. We were there as witnesses to this very special moment in their lives.

The cliff-side villages of the Cinque Terre (literally five towns) make a perfect setting for an eloping couple. The special day arrived and after the bride and groom took their separate ways to get ready, they met at the beginning of Via dell’Amore (lovers lane), a 1km walkway along the cliffs which connects the towns of Manarola and Riomaggiore. The day was scorching, but it didn’t stop the fun as Noni and Gez said ‘I Do’ with the colourful town of Riomaggiore as a backdrop. After their Italian ceremony and photoshoot, we slowly made our way back to Manarola for swimming. A celebratory dinner that night was back in Riomaggiore at La Pie Del Ma with a five-course seafood meal that was more than mouth-watering. We were completely honoured to be part of their day and what made such a beautiful ending to our time in Europe.

Leaving Europe
A day after the wedding, we bid farewell to the newly married couple and took the long journey back to Milan and out to Malpensa Airport for the night. We had a next-day flight which would take us to Cairo, via Athens, and what would be our very last take-off out of Europe for some time. Italy had been amazing to us but it was time to inch closer to Australia. Next stop: Egypt.

Croatia – from Zagreb to Dubrovnik

1 Aug

We’ve just left Croatia, an arid but beautiful country along the Adriatic Sea. It is a country we spent 15 days in, soaking up plenty of sun rays, getting in lots of swims in the cool sea and where we certainly made the most of Croatia’s cafe culture, enjoying the fruits of the country like it’s delicious golden olive oil, refreshing beer and wine.

Zagreb
We began by arriving in Zagreb for a night, the capital in the north. We arrived there from Slovenia and it was the first time we had to produce our passports at the border since arriving in Paris a month ago. Zagreb was simply a stopover town for us. We ended up with a few days to spare before we planned to meet Steve in Split (further south along the coast) so we decided to hire a car in Zagreb and head to the Plitvice Lakes following a recommendation by the friendly hostel owner way back in Poland.

Plitvice Lakes National Park
Most famous of the National Park is an area of 16 lakes, all connected by cascading waterfalls. It’s very lush and we spent two days walking around the blue waters and up into the forest surrounding them. Like Lake Bled in Slovenia, it was a nice change to the cities we had spent most of our time in at the beginning of our trip.

Coastal Croatia
After Plitvice, we drove west to the sea. Just before we hit the coastal village of Karlobag, the sea came into view after plenty of winding through the mountains. We were finally there – a much welcomed sight after many hot days… We would soon take our first dip in the clear Adriatic Sea! We drove the rest of the day down to Split, following the coastline the whole way. It was beautiful to drive mere meters away from the sea, only occasionally the road would lead us inland and we would come face to face with the desolate landscape once again.

We finally hit Trogir, an ancient fishing village a few kilometres from Split. We spent the night there – dinner was thanks to the fresh food markets there, while we strolled around the Old Town and along the marina in this busy little town. The weather was amazingly refreshing with a sea breeze, a change from the constant heat we had been travelling through. Perhaps this is making up for the endless overcast days we spent in the UK!

Split!
Only 10 minutes from Trogir is Split airport, where we met Steve the following day. A familiar face makes its way to us through the crowds and its the first time I set eyes on my little brother in two years! We spent the rest of the day catching up at a cafe along the Split promenade, drinking ice coffee and eating cool cream cakes, similar to vanilla slice back home (delicious!) We spent the next two days swimming in the sea, drinking cocktails and, when we felt motivated enough, made the short trip inland to the old Roman city of Salona. We spent an hour or so wandering around the olive groves that now grow there amongst the ruins.

Split’s Diocletian Palace, which forms the Old Town today, is stunning and we spent our nights soaking up the atmosphere at the bars there and along the promenade. The town is quite beautiful, especially when a night-time storm would roll in and we would sit along the marina watching the lightning over the mountains behind the town, cooling things off before a massive downpour of rain.

Hvar
Following three days in Split, we made the quick catamaran trip to Hvar, one of Croatia’s thousand islands. It is known as the lavender island for its lavender fields, which are harvested in June. On our first full day on the island we came across lavender growing while driving around in an old convertible VW Beatle. We could scent the aroma of lavender in the air as we drove along the easterly part of the island. The island also grows and produces olive oil and plenty of wine, which we eagerly sampled and bought bottles of. Sightseeing from our bright green Beatle was a nice way to see more of the island.

Korcula
After more days of swimming, lounging on sunbeds and generally soaking up the island lifestyle, we caught another catamaran to the island of Korcula. The town of Korcula sits at the tip of the island and there are marble streets and staircases which make their way up to the church which sits pretty much in the centre. Many restaurants and bars are located along one side of the town which overlooks the sea, looking south to Italy. Again, we are met with beautiful clear seas surrounding the island. There are hardly any sand beaches in Croatia, so swimmers spend their time lounging on the rocks, diving straight in almost from where they lay as the water is deep enough close to the rocky shores. Just a short way out, we are unable to touch the bottom of the sea bed as we take a dip to refresh ourselves most days.

Dubrovnik
Only a night and a day in Korcula and we are then on a bus to Dubrovnik, the gem at the bottom of Croatia. It is part of the mainland but is separated from the rest of Croatia as the Bosnia and Herzegovina border splits mainland Croatia in two. Dubrovnik is indeed everything you hear it to be – an ancient walled city (about 56 per cent is now reconstructed due to the Homeland War with former Yugoslavia which began some 20 years ago), which wraps itself around a sea of terracotta roofs and marble streets. Outside of that is the clear Adriatic Sea, just beautiful, cool and refreshing, as it has been our whole trip along the coast of Croatia.

There is a lot to see in Dubrovnik, like a walk around the almost 2km of thick walls that surround the city. It’s hot and thirsty work in the plus-30 degree heat but the rewards in terms of the views is amazing. All we see is the complex labyrinth of terracotta rooftops beneath us contrasting with the blue Adriatic Sea. The Old Town itself is full of bars, restaurants and cafes, there is a beach a few minutes walk outside the city walls and a cable car zooms visitors to the top of the mountain which overlooks the city, offering some great panoramic views. We took the trip up to see  the setting sun over the sea and some of Croatia’s other islands north of Dubrovnik on our last night in the city.

Bosnia and Herzegovina
Dubrovnik is also close to bordering countries Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We took a day trip to Mostar, a small town in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s the hottest city in Europe and we were met with 45 degree heat. We were sweating the whole time we were wandering around the streets… But it was worth it to see Mostar’s famous Stari Most (Old Bridge) which connects the two sides of the city over the river Neretva. The bridge stood for 500 years before it was destroyed in 1993 by The Homeland War with former Yugoslavia. The bridge is also famous for its ‘jumpers’, local men who jump the 25 meters into the river below. For 25 Euros, we could have jumped too. But the river below is incredibly fast-moving and actually quite freezing… It rarely gets over 10 degrees. It’s true… We went for a paddle and it felt like ice against our hot skin, although it was amazingly refreshing.

Moving on…
We’re now in Rome and our romp around Italy begins. It’s time for pizza, pasta, wine and gelato for the next month! Caio!

Lake Bled in photographs

19 Jul

Lake Bled. I’m not sure the photos do this place justice… you might have to make the judgement for yourself.

{Bled Church, on the mainland}

{Bled Castle with Bled Church before a mighty storm}

{The green behind Lake Bled. This place is surrounded by mountains}

{Gondalas take people from the shore to the Church Island. You can also row yourself there}

{This has got to be the best view of the island. This is from Bled Castle}

Now this is a holiday…

9 Jul

As I lounge at the hostel, book in hand and coffee at my side, I feel completely and utterly relaxed. Matt looks content too, watching an episode of Top Gear on the laptop. We’re refuelling after a day in the sun. Later we will go to the pub and perhaps take another stroll around Krakow’s massive and picturesque market square. Or maybe we will get delicious lody (ice cream) or stay in and play a game of pool at the hostel bar. This is the extent of our decision-making at the moment and its so refreshing, a massive change from the numerous weekend breaks we spent in Europe over the last couple of years, hastily cramming in as much as we could see in a spare couple of days. Now as we make our way through Europe at a much slower pace, we feel like we could travel like this forever.

Following a visit to Disneyland for my birthday, of which was even done at an extremely slow pace, we made our way to Prague in Czech Republic. It is a city of beautiful architecture, churches and synagogues, an impressive castle (not to mention the biggest in the whole world in terms of the entire complex size) and tasty food and refreshing beer. The heat completely encapsulated us as we spent a few blissful days filled with sightseeing and eating and drinking in the culture. We’re now in Krakow, Poland. Similar to Prague but with much more impressive and untouched beauty, Krakow features a grand market square – another biggest in Europe (it is 200m square). It is surrounded by cafes and restaurants, St Mary’s Cathedral, the Town Hall Tower and right in the middle, the Cloth Hall. In the town, there is also a castle, a grungy but very fashionable Jewish quarter and medieval streets and buildings. It also has an unbelievable history and a visit to Auschwitz will leave you with chills after learning about the genocide that occurred here. It’s a city which is first on so many travellers lists and for good reason.

Unfortunately and as much as we would love to, we cannot stay in Krakow forever. Budapest, Hungary is in our sights which we will welcome on Wednesday. For now, we have much more laying back to do, so if you’ll excuse us, we think a beer is calling.

The luxuries of hostel travelling

5 Jul

I’m standing in the small common room that has a table, a couch, a fridge and kitchen facilities. I’m staring into space as I hold down the lever mechanism on the side of the toaster that is meant to click in place to hold down the bread and which ignites the grill on either side, in turn creating toast. I am the replacement ‘click’, standing here, toasting bread for my husband and I. Every now and then, I release the lever to check on the progress of our toast. It’s taking a while…

Matt is sitting at the table in the same common room next to a guy who has cooked couscous and is stuffing it into a water bottle with a teaspoon. He then proceeds to add chopped capsicum and something else which resembles cheese. I guess he is trying to stretch his lunch budget. Right next to where I am standing, still toasting our bread, is one of two bathrooms in the entire hostel. There is a line up to use it, as there is with the one upstairs. They will quickly discover there is limited hot water…

Enter the British girls I share a room with. They have just finished their A Levels (the equivalent of QCS in Queensland) and are travelling around Europe to celebrate. They are bright-eyed and excitable for 10am. They are lovely girls. Matt stayed in the room next door last night and tells me that he tossed and turned on account of the heat so he hasn’t had much sleep. The pedestal fan in his room was hogged by an Australian couple. The other fan in the room failed to work. The still of the night dragged on for him…

This is hostelling as we know it. Our hostel tucked away behind a wooden gate on a small sidestreet in Prague is not unlike other hostels we’ve stayed in. Yes, they all vary to a degree, but essentially, they do what they say on the box… it’s a cheap place to lay your head. This morning Matt asked me if I think we’re getting ‘too old’ to be staying in hostels. He’s 26, going on 27 in November. This begs me to ask the question… how old is too old to stay in a hostel? Even now as I write this blog, there are nine people in the very small common room slash kitchen slash living room slash dining room with us, all most likely not over the age of 22… well, apart from Matt and I. They are nice enough, talking about their studies, their crushes on the character Harry Potter (no, not Daniel Radcliffe, the actual Harry Potter). But they come from a different generation.

As we make our way through Central Europe, will we encounter the same demographic of hostellees? Will we stay in the same room as girls and guys who have crushes on movie characters and not the character’s real-life persona? I think you know the answer. So do we. Still, we cannot deny the fact that hostelling pushes you outside your comfort zone. It pushes you face to face with some of the most interesting, albeit lovely, people. It allows us a cheap place to sleep after a day of exploring a new city, something we’ve relied so heavily on while were using London as a base to travel. It allows you to feel at home by cooking your own breakfast. It allows us to say: “Do you remember that awful/nasty/surprisingly good value-had-everything-we-needed-and-was-an-awesome-place-to-stay hostel?” “Ah… yes, I remember it well.” I’m sure that as we travel further into Europe, our list of interesting – good and some not-so-good – hostel experiences will grow. I do mean it when I say, it’s going to be a fun-filled three months.

today was meaningful

a collection of thoughts, life lessons, and days full of meaning.

Liv Hambrett

An Australian Writer in (North) Germany

I am the world's oyster

Photography, Aviation, Nature, Culture, Nikon, Canon, Qantas, Airlines, Emirates, Airports, A380, 747

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Love for hand-knitted & -crocheted beauty. Proud designer & founder of LN|Beanies and LN|Andes, my two knit brands, my two loves.

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Matt & Hannah's Overseas Adventures

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