After seeing the bull rings and having been told of the horrors and agonies suffered by the bulls and that up to 10,000 bulls die in agony each year in Spain alone I just had to see if just occasionally the bulls had a win. I have included a few images where the bull had a moment of satisfaction over his tormentor.
We left Paris via the Charles de-Gaulle airport a freezing 4 degrees. After a 2 hour flight arrived in sunny Madrid, a very pleasant 20 degrees. We stayed in the city centre and enjoyed the sights and sounds of Madrid, a city of over 6 million.
We took a tour of Madrid and saw all the usual tourist sights including the Bull Ring which is still being used. I find it difficult to understand how the Spanish consider torturing a bull to death is a sport, I guess its similar to our duck hunters consider slaughtering our water birds a sport.
We visited the commercial end of Madrid and saw these two leaning towers, they lean at the same angle as the famous Pisa leaning tower, about 4 or 5 degrees from vertical.
We also saw the stadium of the famous Real Madrid Football team. A huge stadium that can hold over 80,000 spectators.
The next day we took a tour of Toledo. a very old town built on a hill with lots of narrow streets and lots of churches. I learnt more about the catholic religion that day from our guide than all the years I spent in Maryborough at Saint Augustine’s Primary school.
The following day we took the very fast train from Madrid to Seville. The trip is about 540 km and takes about 2 and a half hours. Imagine leaving Melbourne Southern Cross station and arriving in Sydney Central a little over 3 hours later instead of the current 9 hours. We all know it isn’t going to happen.
Seville was delightful, a mixture of the old town with its hundreds of narrow winding streets, where one can easily get lost, to the wide streets in the modern Seville.
Seville still tortures bulls in the bull ring but we and an English couple let our guide know that we considered it barbaric and something a civilised society wouldn’t participate in. He agreed with us.
We also came across this very old and very large plaza in Seville and were at a loss to work out what purpose it served other than to entertain hundreds of Japanese tourists with selfie sticks and Americans on segways.
That same evening we left Seville on another fast train for Valencia. We got very close but only got to 299 km per hour. Bit of a shame as I really wanted to crack the 300 barrier. Maybe next time.
We left St Pancreas station about midday on the Eurostar. It wasn’t long before we were in the channel tunnel where the speed was a mere 160. After exiting the tunnel the driver put his foot down and we almost reached the 300km/h barrier but fell 2 km short. Still the fastest we have travelled on land.
We got off at Gar de Nord and checked into our hotel, The rooms are quite small in central Paris but comfortable. It was cool and misty rain but we managed to have a look around as we were close to the river Seine. The following day was cool and temp about 4 as we started our trip to the Palace at Versailles. Upon arrival it started to gently snow.
We got back to the hotel and went to the plac de Republic and saw the tributes around the monument to the recent terrorist activities in Paris.
The following day dawned cool but sunny, a perfect day for a walk. We first went to the Eifel Tower and took the elevators to the top for a magnificent 360 degree around Paris from about 300 metres.
We walked back along the Seine and stopped off at Notre Dame, where we went inside and it sure is a rather large structure, once again full of Japanese.
Dear cousins and Czocharas from Poland and other parts of the world, and to my friends and family in Australia. Thank you for all your messages of support and condolences on the passing of my mum Pat. Kay and I remember our Polish side very well from the trip we all did in 2001, 15 years ago. We still fondly remember all you Poles and the lavish feast you supplied and the free flow of Vodka, a memorable night. I hope we can get together once again and have another night like that. Once again thank you one and all for your messages and we wish you all and your families health, wealth and happiness.
Well our time in London is up and we are about to leave for Paris on the Euro Star. I believe it to be a very fast train going under the Chanel all the way to Paris.
London was very cold and often windy, with a max temp of about 8, frosty but sunny in the afternoons. We had a few showers on our second day in London, but they were not heavy or lengthy. We stayed in Cromwell Road near Gloucester Station which made travel very easy, especially with their Oyster card, simple to use and a breeze to top up.
We did all the tourist places and were simply amazed at the numbers of tourists everywhere, the locals keeping well away from the main attractions. The museums and galleries didn’t charge admissions and the museum of natural history is amazing in its exhibitions and the queues were horrendous, with thousands of school groups, but it was good to see them make use of these facilities.
We found the prices to be somewhat expensive as we were getting a British pound for about A$2.10. The prices in the Harrods and Liberty stores were astronomical but they were swamped with customers buying items. Beer was very expensive a, 330 ml bottle cost me almost 6 quid but I managed to sample of few of their ales, which were quite tasty.
On the TV Australia was not mentioned once in all the new casts we watched. Isn’t anything worthwhile happening back home to make international headlines? We enjoy London and plan to visit again but only in the summer.
Just crossed off one of the 5 major items on my bucket list. Kay and I reconnoitered the Emirates stadium on the Sat so we knew where we were going on the Sunday. We arrived rather early for a 12 pm start, giving ourselves a good 2 hour period of grace. The temperature was a rather refreshing 5-6 degrees and a slight wind at us meant it felt almost as cold as the snow hotel. The teams appeared 30 minutes for a warm up session before the match started on time. We sat among the Arsenal fans and were drowned out by the noise when the gunners appeared. Play was down our end most of the time where arsenal were attacking. Howls of displeasure erupted when an obvious Leicester handball was missed. I immediately thought of the AFL umpire “Razor” Ray when he umpires the Collingwood games. A weak penalty was given to Leicester and a goal resulted. The Arsenal supporters were not happy.
After half time Arsenal still had the majority of the play and after 15 minutes one of the Leicester players was deservedly sent off for his second yellow card. Arsenal attacked and eventually scored the equalizing goal by Theo Walcott. Fans were screaming for the winning goal and in the last minute of 4 minutes of time on, Danny Welbeck headed the winning goal. Boy did the Arsenal fans give it to the Leicester fans, they gave them heaps and every Arsenal supporter left the ground deliriously happy. It was a fantastic feeling, one almost as good as the parachute jump of 20 years ago
It was a tremendous feeling, 3 of the 5 items checked off the bucket list, Parachute jump, Northern Lights, Arsenal playing, and winning at the Emirates Stadium. Only 2 to go.
After the rigours of the Snow Hotel we returned to the decadent life of warm hotel rooms. Flew out of Kirkenes frozen airport to Oslo where we spent the final night in Norway. The next day after a 1 hour flight we arrived in Copenhagen, about 4 degrees and showers, but NO snow, no more negative numbers for temperature. We walked the Stroget, one of the worlds first and longest walking street. The first thing we noticed was the lack of verandas in a wet climate, most unusual. The next thing we noticed was the price of things. At about 4 Kroner to the dollar a beer costs 35 – 38 Kroner, or about $9 bucks, no wonder you don’t see too many drunks on the streets. Staying only 2 nights and being wet and cold we did the tourist things and took bus rides and saw the sights of the city. We tried to con the guards at the palace, called Amalienborg, that we were cousins of Mary and that we had come all the way from Australia to catch up with her. We stayed in the part of town around the railway station, which in its former days was the red light district of Copenhagen, hence the signs? The next morning we took the train to the airport, funny how almost all notable cities in the world have trains from the airport to the CBD. The flight to London’s Heathrow took about 1.5 hours and we took up residence in a lovely hotel in Kensington.
Well here we are back in Oslo for the night before flying to Copenhagen. Must teMll you about the Snow Hotel. A massive structure built entirely out of snow. You enter a large dome shaped space with armchair built of ice with a reindeer hide thrown over. after, it was -10 outside and a pleasant -4 inside, it felt quite warm. There are 25 rooms, all about 5 metre domes and all have different themes, and to satisfy OHS requirements, all have working smoke alarms. They walk you to the end where there is a door and warmth inside and issue you a sleeping bag, which is good for -30 they tell us, and a cotton liner, for hygienic reasons.
We had a 3 course meal, the entrée was reindeer tartar, which was a first for me, and I couldn’t finish. Then a local fish dish followed by, you guessed it, ice cream. We were ten invited to the snow bar for a drink before heading down to our rooms.
After the dinner room it was quite cool in our bedrooms. Kay undressed and climbed into her sleeping bag and I climbed into nine, after the photo. It was cool and claustrophobic, with just the nose exposed. Soon it warmed up but the snug fit made it almost impossible to move around. It took a while to get accustomed to the tight sleeping bag, and would not have been suitable for a bit of the you know what. We somehow managed to survive the night, and I don’t know how we held on for the whole night, but hang on we did, staying there along with most of the other guests until 7am. Had a light breakfast and coffee before catching the bus back to Kirkeness. It was certainly an experience but wouldn’t do again even if I had the opportunity, and for free.
Our second day on the Nordkapp, stops at several ports along the way, why anyone would live there beggars belief, but I guess someone has to keep the north functioning. endless vistas of snow covered granite outcrops plunging into the Artic ocean and the occasional dwelling.
After dinner, about 8 pm an announcement that northern lights have been sighted. There is a mad scramble for cameras etc and rush onto the deck. Words cannot describe, or photographs do justice to the amazing sights. Across the whole sky were the northern lights, cross one off the bucket list. Moving veils of green fill the sky, new splashes appear and disappear in quick succession to the ooohs and ahhhhs of the passengers, ignoring the icy wind and ice covered decks.
The photographs do not reflect the scale or majesty of what I witnessed. To take time lapse photo on a moving ship is going to result in out of focus images, but you do what you can.
The main thing is that we actually experienced the northern lights, and it was sensational.
The next morning we arrived in Kirkenes, 2.5 sq km, pop about 4000, and thousands of Japanese tourists, 400 km north of artic circle, 7 km from Russian border and 30 km from Finish border and we were welcomed with a temperature of -12 degrees. Can’t wait to try out the Snow Hotel tomorrow,
After the very sad event we have decided to continue with the blog of our trip. I know mum would have wanted us to continue and I’m dedicating the rest of the trip to her memory
We caught a flight from Oslo to Tromso, leaving an hour late and after a 2 hour flight we arrived in Tromso about 3 pm, around sunset. We had a few hours before meeting our driver and 3 other adventurers to catch the northern lights. It was cloudy around Tromso so our driver headed inland. After a couple of hours we arrived at the Finland border-still cloudy so we pressed further. Another hour and the sky cleared and we saw stars. We stopped and noted the temp was a brisk -26, a couple of degrees cooler than your average freezer. It was very difficult to operate at this temperature and the tiny green light we saw was very disappointing. We gave up after and started the 3 hour drive back to Tromso arriving after 3am.
We slept in and after breakfast walked around Tromso and enjoyed a few refreshing drinks before catching the Nordkapp, one of the Hurtigruten line of ships that ply up and down the Norwegian coast. Those of us who remember Douglas Adams novel “the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy” will remember Slartiartfast as the designer of the fiords of Norway. I must say that he has created a fabulous coastline
Cabin was OK but rocking motion took getting used to. Breakfast was delicious and the view were stunning. More to follow.