Sunday, 31 May 2009

Weekend in Wales

My friends Beth and Rochelle were heading away to Wales for the weekend with Rochelle's friend Ben and they had a spare seat in the car and asked me to join.
So on Saturday I made the trek down to Putney (and of course the Jubilee line had "planned engineering works") for our weekend away. So once Beth was picked up we headed on out of London town. This weekend was about exploring small town in Wales which we did, our first stop being Chepstow - a town in Monmouthshire, Wales, adjoining the border with Gloucestershire, England. It is located on the River Wye.

In Chepstow we headed to the main street where they had a cute little market and then to Chepstow Castle - located in Chepstow, Monmouthshire in Wales, on top of cliffs overlooking the River Wye, is the oldest surviving stone fortification in Britain. It was built under the instruction of the Norman Lord William fitzOsbern, soon made Earl of Hereford, from 1067, and was the southernmost of a chain of castles built along the English-Welsh border in the Welsh Marches.

This castle was pretty cool, it was built on the edge of the river and overlooked onto fields. I could just imagine sitting up there with my bow and arrow firing away defending the castle.

After Chepstow we headed on towards the town of Tintern and Tintern Abbey - Tintern Abbey was founded by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow, on May 9, 1131. Situated on the River Wye in Monmouthshire, it was only the second Cistercian foundation in Britain, and the first in Wales. It is one of the most spectacular ruins in the country and inspired the William Wordsworth poem "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey".

Tintern Abbey was beautiful. Its situated in a field right near green bush and looks amazing. The ruins look so nice against the greenery and had a very serene feel about it. We spent a lot of time in the Abbey looking around and hanging out. If you are in the area, I would defiantly recommend going. The little town was nice too. You can walk halfway along a bridge and be in Wales and then jump to the other side and be in England. For the afternoon we ordered some cider and chips and sat by the river it was a really nice way to spend the afternoon.

That night we went and stayed in a hostel in a little town called Abergavenny when every television screen in every bar and pub in the area was playing the final of Britain's Got Talent! Lets just say this town was a little ... different!

In the morning we had a sleep in and then went for a wander into town. At the information centre they told us about this free coal mine tour so we decided to do that.

Big Pit is a National Coal Museum that used to be a working coal mine. In 1980 they closed the coal mine and reopened it for visitors in 1983. Big Pit offers free tours of the coal mine. They give you a light and belt and you descend into the coal mine via the lift shaft. It was a really cool tour, given by a man who actually used to work in the coal mine all those years ago and a bonus, it was free! They even had some birdies (is it canaries they used to use in the mines?).

It was such a lovely day that we decided to have some lunch and drove around for a while to find the perfect pub, outside in the sun with a Sunday roast to finish things off.

Had a lovely weekend and enjoyed visiting the smaller villages in Wales. I wish I had a car.

As my camera is still not in working order, people are yet to copy their photos for me so I uploaded a few off the Internet for your enjoyment!

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Boozy bank holiday weekend

I was planning on going to the Lake District with a couple of friends to utilise my bank holiday (not that I really notice, I am very rarely employed) but as we left it too late and all accommodation was booked up, a boozy weekend with the flatties was on the cards instead!

Friday night
Finchley Road Walkie
The Flatmates (not including annoying, overstaying dossers)
Michael, Dallas, Gareth, Toni and Elina

The Boys

The Girls
I dragged my sorry ass out of bed early to meet Louisa and we went shopping in Camden markets for our outfits for Ascot, as this was one of the only free weekends I had before 20 June! That night just laxed on the couch.

On Sunday I did some general house things before retiring to sit in the back yard in the sun with a glass of cider, am really going to miss the British cider, at about 5pm we all headed to Ves Bar. Ves Bar is a bar in She Bu thats really nice to hang out at on a Sunday night. It has a kiwi guy with an acoustic guitar singing some great tunes. After a while we headed over to the Walkie (the drinks are cheaper there) for some dancing. At 11pm the She Bu Walkie closes so we decided to head on a tube and ... am ashamed to say... we weren't ready to go home so went to the Finchley Road Walkie for some more drinking and dancing!

After a feed of KFC on the tube

What, you wanna take my picture?


Dallas in Michael's t-shirt, Elina's shorts and my leg warmers

On Monday I was surrounded by sad, pathetic, hungover, whinging flatmates (yah for not getting hangovers!) and spent the day watching tele.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Egypt - Part 5

4 May – 10 May
Cairo to Dahab to Jordan to Cairo to Istanbul to London

Don't have many photos from here, as had to get them from other people.

Today we rose at 5am to head to Dahab on Egypt’s red sea. We had a long day on the bus passing through Asia to get there. From Dahab its 20 kilometers to Israel and you can see Saudi Arabia from the shoreline. Once we arrived in Dahab we checked into our cabin style accommodation and spent the day lounging by the pool and then had a walk through the main street of Dahab.

Accommodation -------->

5 May 2009
Today I had a much needed sleep in, once I woke up I went for lunch/breakfast at the Dolphin Cafe which is wehre I spent the rest of the day eating, playing cards, smoking shisas, hanging out and got extremely sunburnt. That night we headed to Miss Dahab at the Tree House and danced the night away.

6 May 2009
Today we went snorkeling at the Blue Hole Blue Hole is a diving location on east Sinai, a few kilometres north of Dahab, Egypt on the coast of the Red Sea. The Blue Hole is a submarine pothole (a kind of cave), around 130m deep. There is a shallow opening around 6m deep, opening out to the sea and an 26m tunnel, known as the arch, the top of which is 52m. The hole itself and the surrounding area has an abundance of coral and reef fish. – no one knows the exact depth as its too deep. The Blue Hole is beautiful and the fish and coral were amazing. I did buy an underwater camera but unfortunately!! It broke AS WELL so don’t have any photos of the fishies. That night we has an all you can eat BBQ dinner which was delicious.

7 May 2007
There was an option excursion to Jordon for the day and I decided to take it up. There were only four of us that did. At 5am we all piled into a bus and were driven for a couple of hours to go to the marina to catch our boat to Jordan. Once the boat docked we hopped off and got on a bus and headed to Petra. From the scenic drive you could see that Jordan is nothing like Egypt and I would totally recommend you to visit it. The scenery reminded me of the Road Runner Cartoon (which funny enough they were playing on the boat ride back). Very rocky ... and looked a lot cleaner that Egypt.

Jordon is in the middle east and is part of Asia Egypt isn’t. The Jordanian currency is strong its about 1 to 1 with the pound. We arrived in Petra - Petra is an archaeological site in, lying on the slope of Mount Hor in a basin among the mountains. It is renowned for its rock-cut architecture. Petra is also one of the new wonders of the world. The Nabateans constructed it as their capital city around 100 BC. The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812. It was famously described as "a rose-red city half as old as time" in a Newdigate prize-winning sonnet by John William Burgon. UNESCO has described it as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage." In 1985, Petra was designated a World Heritage Site.– which was formed by earthquakes.

One of the tour guides gave this camel a can of beer and it was the funniest thing, the camel took it in its mouth lifted its head up and drank the hole thing. I thought it was going to eat the can as well as it was chewing on it but it spat it right out!

After walking around for a couple of hours we had an amazing lunch and then headed back to Egypt. At the boat dock before we could come back into Egypt they were checking for our temperatures to see if we had old Swinney. One of our girls was a bit hot so had to sit in the corner but after half an hour or so we were fine to leave. I don't have any actual digital photos of Petra, only hard copy ones from my disposable camera, so I down loaded this ones from the net.

8 May 2009
After a much needed sleep today was a good day to just hang out for the morning. In the afternoon I went camel riding. Now these bloody things are sooo uncomfortable, they jerk your body up and down and side to side how anyone can stay on them I dunno. After we stopped for a rest I switched to another camel and this wasn’t that bad, but I would hate to ride them for hours through a dessert.

Camel riding Egyptian Style <-------

9 May 2008
Today was our last day in Dahab. After lunch we packed up and got back on the bus for our 8 hour drive back to Cairo. Once in Cairo it was time for dinner and KFC was sounding good. After dinner I popped into the supermarket to stock up on a box of moro bars. 12 Bars for 26le which is like £3 – £4 bargain. Who would of thought aside from NZ, Egypt was a place in the world that made moro bars! I am ashamed to say though that I pretty much ate the whole box within that week .

10 May 2008
Yahhh, back to London my Egyptian adventures were over.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Egypt - Part 4

Kom Ombo - Luxor - Cairo

1 May 2009
Kom Ombo

This morning we got off the Feluccas and headed to Kom Ombo Temple - The Temple of Kom Ombo is an unusual double temple built during the Ptolemaic dynasty . Some additions to it were later made during the Roman period. The building is unique because its 'double' design meant that there were courts, halls, sanctuaries and rooms duplicated for two sets of gods, the crocodile god Sobek, god of fertility and creator of the world with Hathor and Khonsu and god Haroeris, also known as Horus the Elder, along "with Tasenetnofret (the Good Sister, a special form of Hathor) and Panebtawy (Lord of the Two Lands).

Me outside Kom Ombo Temple ----->

<------ Some Egyptian traffic

After that we went to the Edfu Temple - It is the second largest temple in Egypt after Karnak and one of the best preserved. The temple, dedicated to the falcon god Horus, was built in the Ptolemaic period between 237 and 57 BCE. The inscriptions on its walls provide important information on language, myth and religion during the Greco-Roman period in ancient Egypt. In particular, the Temple's inscribed building texts "provide details [both] of its construction, and also preserve information about the mythical interpretation of this and all other temples as the Island of Creation.

This temple is huge! Edfu Temple ---->

After those temples we went to our fancy, pants hotel in Luxor. I managed to get some oh so good drugs that were expensive, but cleared me right up.

The afternoon we spent laxing out by the pool, unfortunately this is also when my camera got soaked so all further pictures are courtesy of other people from my tour.

< -----Sphinx's at Luxor Temple

In the evening we headed to Luxor Temple - the temple was dedicated to the Theban Triad of Amun, Mut, and Chons and was built during the New Kingdom, the focus of the annual Opet Festival, in which a cult statue of Amun was paraded down the Nile from nearby Karnak Temple to stay there for a while.

Luxor Temple has a row of Sphinx's that used to stretch 3kms to nearby Karnak Temple and which I also have just read a statue of Amum was paraded down it to stay for a while at Luxor Temple.

<------Luxor Temple at night

2 May 2009

This morning was another early one, so after a scrummy breakfast we headed out to the Valley of the Kings. On the way out there we made a quick stop to see these giant statues, think it used to be a temple and for a photo op on a donkey!

We then kept on Trucking along until we got to the Valley of the Kings - The Valley of the Kings is a valley in Egypt where, for a period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC, tombs were constructed for the kings and powerful nobles of the New Kingdom .

At the Valley of the Kings we were allowed to go into three tombs, Rameses - 1, 4 and 6.

The Tomb of King Tutankhamum - the only tomb ever to be discovered fully intact - was there also but I didn't go in as it cost extra.

The three Rameses tombs were cool, quite different from each other all with hieroglyphics and one had beautiful painted colours that are still vibrant today. You aren't actually allowed to take photos down there but sometimes the guards will pull you aside and for a fee you can, hmmm. Corrupt much?!

<-- excavating Egyptian style, no diggers around here

Temple of the Queen ---->

Pretty much anywhere in Egypt throw a bit of cash around and anything will happen!

After that we headed to Deir-Al-Bahri also know as Temple of Queen Hatshepsut - Deir el-Bahri is a complex of mortuary temples. In 1997, 58 tourists and 4 Egyptians were massacred here by Islamic terrorists from Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya in what has become to be known as The 'Luxor massacre'. Also from Queen's Temple ----->

Hmm, never knew there was a massacre there, the tour leader didn't mention that! I believe this temple is on the other side of the hill from the Valley of the Kings.
A little templed out??

I was ... but wait theres more. In the afternoon we headed across the river in a motor boat and went to Karnak Temple - The Karnak temple complex describes a vast conglomeration of ruined temples, chapels, pylons and other buildings. There are several avenues of human and ram-headed sphinxes connecting the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Amun-Re, and Luxor Temple. -
Sphinx's at Karnak Temple ---->
This the temple that used to connect to Luxor Temple by the Sphinx's although the Sphinx's at this end have Ram's heads. That night we boarded our overnight sleeper train back to Cairo.

Walking like Egyptians at Karnak Temple ----->

3 May 2009

This morning we headed back to Cairo and another fancy pants hotel, after a freshen up we headed out to a perfume factory and then Cairo markets.

Cairo markets are a lot more pleasant than other markets are, they are monitoured by the Tourist police and therefore the locals don't hassle you as much.

<---- Sobhy our tour leader
In the afternoon we spent it laxing by the pool and the night was spent having dinner at the extremely overpriced restaurant, conveniently for them though there weren't any others nearby, and then the night dancing it out at the discotech.