A Travellerspoint blog

Final Days

With Lots Of Snow :)

snow -5 °C

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Well we are nearing the end of our amazing journey through Europe and while we're happy to be leaving for home and all the people we are missing tomorrow, it will also be hard to leave a city as beautiful as Vienna. We have probably enjoyed our time here the most out of everywhere as we have had lots to see and do and the people are friendly and our hotel is excellent!

On Friday morning we were very disappointed as we looked out our hotel morning expecting snow thanks to the forecasts but only finding rain. We managed to get ourselves down to breakfast with the promise of a day of full on sightseeing and as we were sitting having our eggs, bacon and croissants (and staying away from the weird selection of sliced meat and salad on the breakfast buffet??) we realised people were starting to point out the window and we looked around to find that the rain had in fact turned to snow!! It was very light but terribly exciting nonetheless, so we headed back up to our room quickly and put on some extra layers before going outside to take some photos. Unfortunately the snow did not show up well on our cameras because it was quite light, but Renae managed to get one of it all settled on my dark hair which seemed very romantic a shot but also kind of looked like I just had a bad case of dandruff..... Anyway, we took lots of shots in the snow and then decided to try and look a little less tourist like, and walked calmly through the park and towards the tram that would take us to the Hofburg Palace, where we had purchased tickets to see the famous Lipizzaner horses training in the Spanish Riding School. Their training session went for 2 hours and during that time there were four sets of about 5 horses being put through their paces of different steps and on some occasions little tricks. It was very interesting to see how they conditioned and trained the horses to respond to different noises and commands and even more interesting when the occasional horse got sick of it and chucked a bit of a tantrum, haha. I'm very glad I was with Renae as she knew quite a lot about what they were called and how difficult the certain steps were and how old the horses looked, so I learnt a lot during the morning.

After this finished we headed back out to find the snow had died down and left a very light covering over the ground which made everything look even more storybook like than it had before. Our next stop was out to Schonbrunn Palace so we caught their version of the underground and then walked for a while until we rounded the corner and were faced with the impressive, yellow facade of the Habsburgs summer residence. We bought tickets to see inside the palace and headed inside to get our audio guides. I had been here before on a previous Europe trip but enjoyed this one so much more as it was no longer holidays over here and therefore a lot quieter than my previous visit. We often had rooms to ourselves and got to take our time looking over the small details rather than being pushed and rushed by other tourists who seem to lack the understanding or need for personal space. After walking through the palace and learning a little about the Habsburgs (particularly Maria Theresa, Franz Joseph, his wife Sisi and Marie Antoinette who we know was later beheaded in the Place de la Conchord in Paris during the French Revolution) we headed outside to wander through the gardens and up to the Gloriette. This is up a large sloping grassed area and has large archways and a beautiful view down to the Palace and over it to the city of Vienna. Definitely worth the walk up there and really not to exhausting considering the stamina our legs have built up during this trip! After this we walked back to the underground and manoeuvred our way through their public transport system to end up back at our hotel for some time to dethaw and relax before going to a little cafe down the street for dinner. After all our walking and the exercising we have been doing in our hotel room at night time we decided that we also deserved some dessert, so we stopped at a little Konditorei and each bought a treat to take back to our hotel.

This morning after breakfast we headed towards the Museum of Natural History. It was am absolutely beautiful, sunny morning and while still freezing cold was a pleasure to be outside, but we had heard great things about this museum and as it was listed as one of the Top 10 in the world, we decided it must be worth a visit. Boy were we right! There were two massive levels full of dinosaur fossils and rebuilt skeletons, stuffed animals, creepy underwater animals in big glasses of some liquid and meteorites that had landed across the world. We were very excited by all of these displays and spent a good few hours wandering around marvelling at the Allosaurus, Pterodactyl, Triceratops, Mammoth, Elephant, Giraffe, Panda, Whale.... you get the picture. As we dragged ourselves out of this amazing building in search of some lunch, we discovered that it had again started to snow :) We decided that snow could definitely not get old as it makes everything look so much more romantic, so happily strolled along in it towards the centre of town where we stopped at what turned out to be a weirdly decorated restaurant for lunch. After that we did some souvenir shopping and got the last of our little presents for family back home (don't expect anything too exciting guys because we have very little suitcase room!) and then had our obligatory Starbucks stop. There was one thing still on our 'to see' list of Vienna, so we headed towards Minorenplatz to find a little church that I remembered from the last trip and to see the amazing mosaic of The Last Supper that was on the side wall. After a little searching in the icy wind we managed to find the church and headed inside but were quite disappointed as it was quite dark by this time and the lack of lighting in the church meant that the art work was all in shadow and very difficult to see. There was, however, a man practising a hymn so that was nice and authentic (if you ignored the mistakes). We grabbed some dinner on the way back to our hotel where we have been doing major repack work on our suitcases to make sure everything fits back in, interspersed by breaks of wedding idea searching on Pinterest :)

So as this is my final blog for the trip, I have one unfinished task. I made a promise before I left that I would list what I missed most about my sister Kate and after much debate I have decided on three things and I hope you are being good and reading all my blogs so that I don't say this for no reason! The first thing is that when you try to give my sneak hugs and although I protest, I secretly like them ;) The second is your sharp wit, which although often brutal, always leaves me in stitches! And the third is that we are, for now, at a stage where we can share clothes, and that is always fun! So there you go, mission accomplished. In the interest of familial harmony, however, I would also like to let Lauren know that I am missing your stories and how you always say I'm pretty and mean it :) And Nick, I am missing my big bro who looks after me and I can't wait for a massive hug when I walk in the door! Can't wait for a good, long chat and snuggle with mum and dad too :)

So for anyone reading this, I hope you have enjoyed hearing about our adventures while overseas and that I have maybe inspired you to come and check out these beautiful places for yourselves. Travelling is something you will never regret! In closing (have somehow made this sound like a speech so will run with that) I would like to say that I am so happy that I got to do this trip with such an amazing person and that I think there are very few people who could put up with me for 24 hours in a day and for 29 days all up, but Renae has managed to do this and has been so much fun and such a chilled out travel partner. I love having another sister and I especially love that we got to see all these places together and now have so many fun memories to look back on when we are all old and wrinkly :)

See you all the next time I step on a plane! Xo Claire

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Posted by clairebear89 13:45 Archived in Austria Comments (1)

Freezing in Vienna!

Our first sight of snow for the trip :)

sunny -1 °C

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So we arrived in Vienna on Tuesday night and as we walked out of the train station we noticed that there was snow all over the floor and the tops of the parked cars and the gardens!!! We were very excited but also wanted to get inside of our warm hotel, so caught a taxi and were very pleasantly surprised by the standard of the Hotel Regina. Not only were the bell boys and front desk staff very friendly, the hotel is right across the road from the Votivkirche and we can see it straight out our room window. They also have classical music piped into the foyer and lifts and beautiful high ceilings and art work. Ok, so enough raving about our hotel. We decided to go for an easy mean at an Irish pub right around the corner and had massive burgers and a really weird version of Malibu and coke, which was some sort of coconut syrup but was surprisingly good. We planned on an early night but ended up talking for longer than we thought and therefore had a bit of a sleep in the next morning.

After breakfast at our hotel we walked into the main part of town (10 minutes) and found the Hofburg Buildings. These are so impressively large and white and detailed that we took quite a long time taking photos and appreciating the different sculptures over it before looking inside the foyer of the ancient library in one and climbing up to the roof of another to look down on the city streets. We also found the Mozart statue in the gardens and the Spanish Riding School. By then we were really cold, the temperature seems to have dropped even more severely than in Switzerland, so we headed to Starbucks to warm up. Being the Starbucks connoisseurs that we now are, we happily discovered that not only does Vienna have the cheapest menu but also the best cappuccinos :) After that happy revelation, and some time to de thaw, we wandered through the beautiful main streets of Vienna and marvelled at the huge chandeliers that hang over them and the high end brand's window displays. We also found a Forever 21 store which is similar to Forever New back home and which we could have spent the rest of the afternoon in gazing and dreaming at all the cute jewellery and clothes. We managed, miraculously, to drag ourselves out the doors and after looking around some more and taking a few more tourist snaps we headed back to our hotel to get changed for dinner. Thanks to the ridiculous amount of Italian stores all over Europe and particularly surrounding our hotel area, we ended up having spaghetti for dinner and then came back to our hotel to plan out what else we wanted to see in Vienna and when to fit it all in.

This planning led us get up earlier this morning (Thursday) and purchase a Vienna card (allowing unlimited public transport use and museum/attraction reductions) before heading to the Upper Belvedere Palace. This place was chosen because it holds much of Vienna's famous art works and is currently doing a special display of one of Renae's favourite artists, Gustav Klimt, and holds his most famous painting, "The Kiss". We were extremely excited to walk into the Palace which holds these pieces, not only because it was warm inside, but also because the architecture and the interior decoration were breathtaking. We had sore necks after the first few rooms just from looking up at the ceiling paintings! The Klimt display certainly did not disappoint and there were lots of other impressive works throughout including some Monet and Van Gogh. We were feeling very cultured as we left and headed to a grocery store nearby to get some fresh fruit and cheese and biscuits for a picnic lunch but then decided we wanted to come back home with all our limbs intact rather than lost to frost bite, so moved our picnic to our hotel room and sat looking out at our lovely view of Votivkirche.

After lunch we went back into town so that Renae could replace her new Swatch watch, which she had discovered a fault in, and then we went back to the Swarovski shop so that I could buy a ring I had seen in there yesterday and decided I wanted as a keepsake for our trip. It is rather excessively large and probably not something I can wear in Toowoomba, but will be nice for any big occasions I ever get to go to down the track :) We are constantly surprised over here at the amount of dogs in town and even more particularly at the amount of them inside department stores, restaurants and even high fashion boutiques. It makes us laugh to think if taking Charlie and Moët anywhere in public and how they would react to the crowds and the other dogs, or even the pigeons! After spending some more time wandering the streets and soaking in the calm Viennese atmosphere (and being hassled to buy tickets to an orchestra performance that night) we found a really cool looking Sushi place and stopped there for an early dinner. I mistook the blob of Wasabi on my plate for a blob of avocado and spent the next ten minutes breathing fire, but aside from that we both decided it was the best meal we had had on the trip and were feeling nice and healthy as we headed back to our hotel in the biting cold wind. Right now we are sitting in our cute little attic style room and listening to music as we catch up on our blog/diary entries and get ready for an early night. Only 2 more days and then we head home on Sunday :( Excited to see everyone again but am definitely feeling settled in Vienna and this comfy hotel!

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Posted by clairebear89 09:15 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

Lucerne

My second favourite travel destination

sunny 0 °C

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When we arrived in Lucerne on Sunday morning we headed straight for a Starbucks so that Renae could chat to her family while Gav was visiting them with his Apple products and 3G. After about an hour there and two of the biggest coffees I have ever seen (beaten only by a large one I ordered one night in Saskatoon before spending the next 24 hours wide awake!) we headed out to find our hotel, which was luckily within walking distance. After checking in we headed to the river to take photos of the beautiful old bridges (most importantly the Chapel Bridge) and to walk up to the Lion Monument.

It didn't take me long to remember why I liked Lucerne last time we came here. It has a real charm and is a lot quieter than the other cities we have been to on this trip, making it a peaceful place to wander through. I particularly enjoy the Old Town, where lots of the buildings are painted in pastel colours and have gorgeous little balconies and shutters. We spent the afternoon sightseeing before heading back to our hotel to rest and then went back to an English pub right in front of the Chapel Bridge for dinner.

We had really wanted to spend Monday going up Mt Pilatus and seeing some snow but after looking into it and realising that on an overcast day (which it was) you don't get a view, and because there hadn't been enough snow up there this season they weren't allowing people to toboggan down (which is what we were most excited about), so we decided to spend the day relaxing in town again and headed out to look at the shops and have a coffee while we read our books and people watched. There really isn't too much to tell about our day in Lucerne, except that I was excited to get a chance to use some German, we were surprised by how expensive everything was, we oohed and aahed over every little building we saw, and we ended up at a Burger King for dinner - not particularly authentic but at least an easy meal!

This morning we have been quite proud of our clever little selves as we had been given train times by our travel agent and knew that we only had a 15 minute change over time in Zurich, so we did a bit of research, found out there was an earlier local train that would give us 45 minutes, and took that one instead. All up our travelling time today will be 10 hours so we also stopped at a bakery and got some snacks for the trip. We had been seeing these sweet looking pull apart buns in the windows of all the bakeries here and they have all had a golden paper crown sitting on top of them, which has intrigued is a lot. The German word for it translated to King Cake and this morning when we got one the lady explained that they only have them at this time of year and in one of the pull of sections they have a little plastic king toy and if you get that section then you get to wear the crown :) As we were travelling this morning we ate it and I took a big bite into the kings head and therefore not only won the game but also need to go see a dentist when I get back :)

So right now it is 3pm and we are half way to Vienna. This will be our last train trip of the holiday as we catch our plane home on Sunday afternoon and arrive back in Aus on the Tuesday. I'm really looking forward to Vienna and we are really hopeful that it will snow while we are there!! Looking forward to seeing you all in a week, until then, hope you are all well :)

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Posted by clairebear89 11:20 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

Geneva

A fly by through a very pretty city

sunny 1 °C

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So our quick stop in Geneva started off with us having no clue how to get to our hotel thanks to the dodgy wifi in Paris. Luckily, the Swiss people lived up to their friendly and helpful stereotype and between a helpful man at the ticket box who showed us how to get to the closest tram stop to our place and a lovely old man who saw we were very confused with our little map and came over and pointed us in the right direction, we finally managed to check in and collapse into our room. The hotel was quite far out from the city and in a really industrial looking area and we were wondering the whole time why Lesley would have suggested it as a good place to stay, but then the hotel receptionist told us that as part of staying there we get a free transport card to be used on any public transport around Geneva. This made a lot more sense and once we found out there was also really good wifi we were extremely happy with the place :)

The hotel is attached to a Kmart style shopping centre so for dinner we just headed over there and got some Thai food from the eatery. It was so good to have vegetables again and we had been missing our home cooked stir fry and curry so the meal was particularly good. By about 6pm we were exhausted so headed back to the hotel to sleep. Unfortunately, for some reason neither of us could sleep for ages and ended up tossing and turning until a ridiculous hour of the night. This then meant that once we fell asleep we slept in and were not on the move until about 11am. We headed into town and found a little cafe for lunch and then wandered around the Old Town side of the river and saw the Cathedrale St-Pierre, the Reformation Wall (four big marble guys) and a lot of quaint old houses and lane ways. Then we headed back to the river to look at the Jardin Anglais (a garden along the river which has a huge flower clock) and the Jet d'Eau (a massive fountain of water spraying up from the harbour). After a stop in Starbucks for a coffee for me and the chance for Renae to look up shops that sell Swatch watches, we headed off in search of the perfect watch and spent the afternoon wandering through the New Town side and checking out watch and souvenir stores. When we found a massive store selling just Swatch watches she found a really nice white one and bought it. I must say, it is a very good looking watch!

By then it was about 5pm and we decided to skip dinner and go to Movenpick (a Swiss ice creamery) on the river. Renae had waffles and ice cream and I had a lemon meringue pie, both of which were ridiculously good! Then we found the bus stop to take us to our hotel and settled into another night of very little sleep. So all in all, Geneva turned out to be a very pretty city and we both agreed that it and Edinburgh have been the only places we would choose to live out of the ones we have stopped in so far.

This morning we got up early to catch the bus to the tram to the train (we had it all timed and planned out) but when we got the bus stop we realised that because it was Sunday morning the first one wasn't till 7:45 so we had to fast walk to the tram stop which then got us to the train station where another friendly ticket man gave us our train details and we waited on the platform, which to our annoyance had no seats, and the jumped on our train in the 5 minute space at which is stops on the platforms. We are currently sitting watching the beautiful mountains pass by as well as the gorgeous little towns and farm houses and using any time in tunnels to do some reading or blogging. Will post this once I a, in Lucerne, where we are heading straight for a Starbucks so that Renae can FaceTime her family while it's dinner time back home. We are still loving it over here, particularly now that we're in beautiful Switzerland, but are definitely starting to get excited that we have a week to go before getting back on the plane and heading home to everyone!

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Posted by clairebear89 02:25 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

Last Days In Paris and Disneyland/Walt Disney Studios

Fulfilling some childhood dreams :)

semi-overcast 3 °C

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Well the last time I blogged was on New Years morning and since then we have managed to finish off our sightseeing in Paris as well as spend a day running around Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios like over excited children :) On New Year's Day most of the attractions and lots of restaurants and shops were closed so after our sleep in to make up for the late night, we headed out to find some snacks and have a picnic lunch in the park around the Eiffel Tower to take advantage of the beautiful sunny weather. We made it all the way down to the Christmas markets on the Champs-Élysées (yes there are still Christmas things everywhere!) without finding anything so decided we would just get a hot dog there and some toffee apples and then bring them to eat. As we walked towards the Eiffel Tower we kept laughing at how misleading it's distance is and I was constantly saying, "Just one more street guys, nearly there." Finally we did make it to the park, after the obligatory Starbucks stop, and we marvelled at it's height, discussed it's ugly colouring when up close, and took lots of photos despite this. We then found a park bench and sat down in the sun to eat toffee apples and read our books. I ended up doing much more people watching than reading and after about an hour the sun went behind a cloud and the ice cold wind picked up and we decided to start heading back. We stopped at a few souvenir shops along the way and got some postcards and stumbled across a Hard Rock Cafe which we decided to head back to for dinner so went home, got changed and headed back out again. Hard Rock was insanely busy by the time we got back (about 8:30) and we had to wait an hour before we got a buzzer and then another 15 minutes until a table was ready but it was totally worth it when we got our food!! Spicy chicken wings from there are soooo good! Renae and Ash shared a chocolate brownie at the end but everything on the menu bar one had nuts and the one thing that didn't had run out so I saved myself some extra weight there I guess.

On Wednesday Ash was meeting some family for a bike tour through Paris so we fast walked down to the Eiffel Tower after leaving later then we should have but she managed to make it on time and the Renae and I had a few hours to fill in. We had a lazy Starbucks to recoup from the early morning exercise and then headed to some of the shops around the Place de la Concorde (where Marie Antoinette lost her head) to find some presents and to buy our Disneyland Paris tickets!! We were very excited once we had purchased those and headed back past the Christmas Markets (still up and still playing carols!) to get some lunch before heading back to the Eiffel Tower to meet Ash, Naomi and Allana. Once they arrived we decided to head up the Eiffel Tower and to my relief it was only open to go up half way. The others were very disappointed at this but decided that was better than nothing so we stood in line for about half an hour and got our ticket then stood in another line just as long to wait for the elevator. Once we got to the half way point the lift dropped us off and we headed out to take in the amazing view. It took me more than a little while to go anywhere near the edge but I managed to release my vice like grip from the middle rail and walk awkwardly over to the edge. I took a few photos, all the time thinking I would drop my iPad over the edge, and then posed in some with Renae and by then I was feeling a little more at ease with the height. We walked around that level and then went down to the lower section and took some more photos looking up at the tower as it had just started to light up at around 5:30 and was looking a lot more romantic. We then rushed back down so that we could be at the bottom and take some photos of it sparkling on the hour and were certainly not disappointed with how it looked up close at night time. We were, however, surrounded by kissing couples which was more than a little off-putting, haha. After that we found a restaurant which was, like all things in Paris, ridiculously over priced but we enjoyed sharing our travel stories with Naomi and Allana and hearing some of theirs. The walk back home seemed much more daunting after seeing from the Eiffel Tower just how far away our place was but we somehow made it back home and tried to get an early night but couldn't sleep because we were too excited about the next day!!

On Thursday morning Renae and I got up early, got ready, said goodbye to Ash who was leaving on a train to Milan later in the day and headed out to the closest metro station to catch a train to Disneyland Paris. We were extremely tired after no sleep but started waking up more and more as we got closer and the excitement started to build up. As we walked towards the main entrance to Disneyland we were like kids again and couldn't wait to get inside and see everything! They have done an incredible job of setting out the park and the attention to detail was amazing. It is set out with a Main Street down the middle full of shops and restaurants leading towards the Disney Palace and then little 'lands' branch off from there. We walked through Frontierland with it's cowboys and Mexican food, Adventureland with Robinson Crusoe's treehouse and the Pirates of the Caribbean ship, Fantasyland with all the princesses and then Discoveryland with Buzz Lightyear and lots of space rides. Each section plays music from the soundtracks of the movies that suit that area and the staff are wearing costumes that blend in as well. After wandering around with our mouths open for a good hour we went on the Pirates ride and in the Haunted House and then had lunch at the Hakuna Matata restaurant. We then decided to head over to the Walt Disney Studios park to check it out as we had bought a double pass for the day. It was just as detailed in it's areas if not quite as nostalgic with lots of the newer Disney movies being featured but we loved the Crush's Coaster themed on the turtles from Finding Nemo. We spent the rest of the day switching between the 2 parks and although the wait time for rides was so long we weren't too phased because we enjoyed walking around and looking at everything so much! We did manage to fit in the Rock n Rollercoaster which was similar to the Superman at Movieworld and the Indiana Jones Rollercoaster as well as the iconic It's A Small World Cruise. I also had to reign in my teacher voice a number of times as we were often surrounded by rowdy teenagers who were either all over each other and in need of a good hosing down, or smoking despite looking 13 years old and blowing it all over others standing in line. Most of the time, however, there were also gorgeous little kids getting really excited who were cute enough to make up for the lack of decorum and class in the older ones. We had dinner in Captin Hathi's Pizza Restaurant which was themed around the Jungle Book and then spent a while looking around the many toy shops, picking out presents and deciding which stuffed toy we wanted to bring home. Renae ended up with Dumbo and I have Baloo :) By then it was about 8pm and we were absolutely exhausted (my shoes had gotten soaked through on a ride in the morning so I was also sick of walking around with wet feet!) so we decided we had seen and done all we could manage and headed back to our hotel, got all packed up for our train trip to Geneva in the morning, tried to FaceTime people back home but got too frustrated with the dodgy wifi in our hotel and called it quits for the night.

This morning we got up at 6:30 and packed up the last of our stuff, checked out, guessed our way through the Paris Metro System and made it to Gare de Lyon in time to have some breakfast before boarding our train to Geneva. We decided that early is the best time to be there because if you are one of the first on then you can actually find room for your luggage!! We are so amazed at how rubbish the luggage system is on these trains as after about 4 bags fit in the compartment of each coach there is no room for any others. Once again, Canada's system works so much smoother! We are currently sitting on the train and catching up on our diary/blog while watching the somewhat foggy French landscape. Hopefully our hotel will have some wifi so that I can post this,otherwise I guess we'll be spending more of our time inside the walls of Starbucks cafes :) Hope you all enjoy the weekend and we are starting to count down till we are home. One and a half weeks to go till we see you all again!

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Posted by clairebear89 05:30 Archived in France Comments (0)

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