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Flanders For Free


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One of the highlights of the summer occurred when I took a day trip, along with Saman, Matt and Jenna over the channel to Flanders. And best of all....the ferry was free! Having underwhelming service on the Christmas Ferry out to Lille back in December, we complained and were awarded free, unrestricted ferry tickets for 2014.

The day trip turned into a weekend for me, as I left work straight to London, staying at Matt's on Friday night before the early start on Saturday. Leaving at 5:30am we blasted out the #choons as we made our way down to Dover. As the weekend was the first day of the summer holidays it was absolutely packed, and we ended up spending the whole journey across the channel in the restaurant queuing for breakfast.

After this energy boost, we got back in the car, entertaining the other passengers with our singing and dancing as we entered the French roads, making our way over to the Belgian border, and our first city of the day - Ypres. Being Kevin I had sussed out the sights, prices, and car parking arrangements for us all, and we headed straight to the centre of town before the Market closed down. After this we headed over to the Menin Gate, the commemorative arch to Commonwealth soldiers without graves during the First World War.

Menin Gate

Menin Gate

Whilst there, and going up the stairs to the elevated gardens we found Tony Robinson from Time Team doing filming for a TV show! So we stayed around for a while to watch him fluff his lines before heading back down for a photo shot of us by the arch, before heading back round the City Moat, and back into the centre for Waffles and finally to visit a Commonwealth cemetery, which was immaculate.

Commonwealth Cemetery

Commonwealth Cemetery

Leaving Ypres, we headed to the south to a restored trench system known as "Bayernwald". After racing to the local village to get tickets before closing we entered the site, and had a wander inside them to get a feel for how soldiers had to spend their time, including seeing some of the dugouts where soldiers would have slept.

Bayernwald

Bayernwald

After the morning of history in Belgium, we headed back into France, towards Dunkirk for a bit of beach relaxation. Whilst the weather wasn't the sunniest, it was still a warm day and the beach in Dunkirk was lovely and sandy.

Beach Relaxation

Beach Relaxation

After a few games we hired a quadracycle and caused carnage along the promenade, screaming, shouting, driving on the 'wrong' side of the road, and getting clothing caught in the thing!

Reconstructed image of the bike

Reconstructed image of the bike

The last thing before heading home was a 'lovely' French meal, where we were reacquainted with the stinky cheese of 6 months ago. All I can say is that the food wasn't great.....

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Belgium Tagged beach history friends war Comments (0)

'Cos this is Africa!

Strait of Gibraltar - Tangier

sunny 21 °C
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Kasbah

Kasbah

Whilst Tangier wasn't the most interesting city in Morocco, it did still have a souq, and a lot of Arabic features, as well as the novelty of being Africa, - therefore ticking off my 5th continent of the 7, as well as adding a little more action to my holiday.

Medina

Medina


Old City Gate

Old City Gate

Arriving at the ferry port terminal in Tangier, I spent 5 or so hours looking around the Medina of the city before making my way over to the more modern part of the city and the beach side area. After buying a souvenir, I then took the return ferry back over to Spain, and made my way over to Gibraltar (though actually staying over the border in Spain, where it was so much cheaper) for the final full day of the holiday.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Morocco Tagged history gibraltar souq Comments (0)

"You have ze smallest room in Rotorua"

RTW - New Zealand, North Island

sunny 23 °C
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After spending some time with my family in the south, I flew up to Auckland to spend a few days exploring Māori and geothermal activity. #GeographyYAY

Mount Eden

Mount Eden

Flying up in the morning I spent the afternoon of the first day on the North Island seeing Auckland - starting with the port area, before making my way over to the Domain, where the Auckland War Memorial Museum was located, and then over to Mount Eden - a dormant volcano that has the highest point in, and gives the best free 360˚ view of Auckland - one thing I really noticed being how much hillier Auckland was compared to Christchurch!

Auckland War Memorial Museum

Auckland War Memorial Museum


Sky Tower

Sky Tower

The following morning I took a coach over to Rotorua - home to the most geothermal and Māori activity accessible. Arriving in blissful sunshine I checked into my hotel, where I was told by a German that I had "ze smallest room in Rotorua", which was in fact no larger than a walk-in wardrobe...not that it mattered, as I was there just one night and it was perfectly comfortable!

Māori Culture

Māori Culture

After treating myself to another piercing to mark the halfway mark of my trip, I went off to explore the local area and seeing my first open hot springs that were only 212˚C, and getting lovely whiffs of Sulphur, I eventually ended up at the supermarket where I decided to cook my own food - in the end I opted for Schnitzel and pasta, whilst wearing a Berlin T-Shirt and surrounded by Germans...just like old times!

Te Puia Geyser

Te Puia Geyser

The following day I went off to Te Puia - the home of the Māori Geothermal activity in Rotorua, where I got to experience Geysers, Mudpools, Māori culture, and see a Kiwi bird - ticking off nearly all of my checklist for the country, and well worth the entrance fee.

Mud Pools

Mud Pools

I then took an afternoon coach back to Auckland, and spent my last night in the city before flying off to destination number 8 - Fiji!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged culture history city hill geothermal maori rtw geography Comments (0)

"Can I take a picture with you?"

RTW - Macau

all seasons in one day 27 °C
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On my first full day the weather in Hong Kong was torrential...getting absolutely drenched after a few minutes, despite all my waterproofs on, but this didn't matter so much as I walked a short distance to the ferry terminal, where I would take a ferry over to the Portuguese version of Hong Kong - Macau.

The territory was handed back over to China in 1999 and unlike Hong Kong is very very small (around half the size of San Marino, compared to HK's half the size of Luxembourg), and actually makes more money in gambling than Las Vegas.

Senado Square

Senado Square

Luckily the weather in Macau was much nicer, although it did make the first half of the hour long ferry journey pretty bumpy. I then spent about 5 hours walking around the territory, starting with the newer developed areas where some of the casinos are, before walking around some of the more Chinese areas and seeing Senado Square.

Ruins of St. Paul's

Ruins of St. Paul's

I then finished my tour of the city with it's landmark - the ruins of St. Paul's - a former cathedral that was mostly destroyed by a fire after a typhoon in 1835, with only the front façade remaining. It was here that the bizarre moment of my trip occurred, when after being asked by a group of what looked like Chinese to take a group photo for them, I was asked if they could take a photo with me...

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Macau Tagged history tourists rtw colony Comments (0)

"I like your T-Shirt!"

RTW - Tokyo

sunny 32 °C
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Having left Dubai at a disgustingly early 2:50am (and being told by the air hostess that she loved my T-Shirt, not realising it was actually dedicated to Copenhagen, despite the red blob looking rather like the Japanese flag), I was flown over Afghanistan and the Himalayas and then China and Korea before touching down in Japan in the early evening.

By the time I worked out and bought all the transport cards for the entirety of my trip and made it to my hotel it was already 9pm...and so finally making it to bed was a relief, and I treated myself to an extra long lie in, getting up at around 2pm, after the maid had already called. However this was to be one of the many appreciations for the Japanese I was to encounter...the maid had left me all the essentials for night (sheets, toiletries, dressing gown) just outside my door without disturbing me! So lovely of her!

I then took the metro to do a bit of sightseeing that and I once again witnessed some of the Japanese behaviour, this time in terms of personal space - when a train is half full, Japanese people will automatically space themselves so that their is a single seat between each other. However when the train is more busy this becomes more difficult, and so if there are 3 people sitting next to each other (where there will be a visible gap between them) and the person on the end gets up to the leave the train, almost instantaneously, the middle passenger will move to the edge...such a funny thing to see!

Asakusa Shrine

Asakusa Shrine

I then arrived at my first sight, the Asakusa Shrine, a short distance away from the Tokyo Skytree - and the two could not be more different! One being a historical place of worship, and the other a modern commercial tower! This was then followed by a visit across town to the Shibuya Crossing, the busiest crossing in the world where people cross in any direction, fun to people watch!

Tokyo Metropolitan Towers

Tokyo Metropolitan Towers

On the second day I realised how warm it was in the city..despite being 10 degrees colder than Dubai, it was still over 30! More refreshing, but still pretty humid. I had first visited the Tokyo Metropolitan Towers, where free views of the city are available, and then gone through the park areas to see more Shines.

Yasukuni Shrine

Yasukuni Shrine

After this, I finished up at the Tokyo Tower, before eating and then going back to the Asakusa Shine to see it in darkness.

Asakusa

Asakusa


Edo Castle

Edo Castle

On my final full day I saw the very heart of the city, including the Imperial Palace grounds, which I had booked in advance and were free. For my final night I had decided to spend it in a capsule bed, which was also offered by my hotel and was only one step up from a dorm room. However being Japan, there is so much respect for others and I had an easy nights sleep before making my way to the airport for my onward flight.

Capsule Bed

Capsule Bed

The hotel I stayed in I can easily say is the best hotel ever, being so cheap, in a great location as well as friendly and helpful staff and very modern and clean - although this could easily sum up Japan in general! The small bit I have seen has been so wonderful that it makes me want to visit again, and I would recommend it to all of you!

Next stop: Hong Kong!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Japan Tagged technology tower culture history palace city shrine rtw Comments (0)

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