Le Paris

With anticipation we had booked our tickets through the Chunnel to experience a train ride underground through the English tunnel. Unfortunately it happened too quickly, while we were engrossed in our books, that before we knew it we were in Paris. The trek from the station to the hotel turned out to be very easy and we arrived at our hotel around 9pm (after departing our Iceland hostel at 6am). After a short walk down rue da Clichy, we settled for the night.

With only a short time in Paris, we were up at dawn, walking the streets, headed for the Louvre. The next few hours within the Louvre allowed us to see some amazing artwork. One of the highlights was witnessed through closed doors as we peeked at workers chiselling away to restore future exhibitions. With time on our heels we made our marathon trip through the gallery, making beelines for highlights, while taking in as much as we could along the route. Several hours later we left, having seen so much but just the tip of the iceberg. On our exit we were grateful for arriving early (with pre-booked tickets) when we saw the line of tourists yet to experience what we already had.

As we crossed the Sein across the "bridge of love", haggled by salesmen trying to sell us locks, we discovered the bridge overwhelmed with padlocks couples had locked as a sign of their live, on our way to the statue of St Michael for a quick bite and our rendezvous with our walking tour. The next 3 hours were spent learning about a small portion of Paris’s history passing monuments such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, back past the Louvre and ending through the Jardin des Tuilleries, surrounded by the Museu D'Orsay and halted by the Obelisque on the port de la Concorde. From here we made our own way across the river Sein heading toward the Eiffel Tower. Little time was spent here, just enough to absorb the size of the tower versus the line of people queued to climb its stairs, before we headed north toward the Arc de Triumph.

Having walked half of Paris we were desperate for food but everywhere we looked the offerings were either overpriced or REALLY overpriced. Just shy of our hotel doorstep we indulged in authentic Chinese in an authentic Parisian Chinese restaurant. After such a long day trekking through the city we were glad for a (basic) shower and bed. We were grateful for the bed but could have done with out the paper-thin walls and mules shagging in the other room.

We woke tired and cranky. We had to check out today so we packed up, pissed each other off and pissed off. But it was Paris so we spent some time Frenching in the street. Having left our backpacks in the hotel we legged it for the Musee D'Orsay. Arriving early we waited in anticipation for what we had been told was better than the Louvre. The next few hours did not disappoint as we walked among some of the best art around. Leaving late we jogged back to the hotel to get our luggage before catching the metro to the bus station. A few hours later we were on our way to Prague. The next 14 hours were spent entertaining ourselves, trying to sleep, waking, trying to sleep again, dawn breaking and then admiring the lush green of the country we were about to explore.


Flying into Iceland we were met with barren, cracked lava fields with the occasional plume of gas billowing from the earth. As we made our way through the airport way made a quick detour through duty-free (and tax-free in Iceland) where we came across the Iceland survival kit. This consisted of a box in the shape of a book containing two shot glasses and small bottle of Brennevin, Icelandic schnapps. Following the instructions, stating that this was best chased with beer we stocked up on some Viking beer and felt that we were adequately prepared to enter this new country. After the bus dropped us off at the hostel we head upstairs to check in and discovered it was brand new. As a result we were given the choice of going to our 4-bed dorm on the 3rd floor or a 6-bed dorm on the 4th (where the showers, kitchen and reception were), which was unoccupied. Choosing the later, we stowed our gear in our personal dorm before heading down the main strip into Reykjavik.

The first thing we noticed was how rugged up everyone else was. It would appear spending the last few months in a non-heated van had helped us acclimatise quite well. Reykjavik turned out to be a small little city, clean and expensive. After walking for a bit, and being after 12 noon, we headed back to the hostel to sample some of Icelandic's finest (followed by cheap Iceland beer). The schnapps had no taste, went down clean and really warmed our insides. As the afternoon progressed, we headed back down the strip to a local Icelandic pub. It turns out they are pretty similar to every other pub but after the schnapps they were AWESOME!!.

The next day was spent lounging and feeling sorry for ourselves...

On the Saturday, we headed back into the heart of the city, intent on going on a walking tour. Unfortunately, (due to it still being classed as winter season... in spring...) the tours operated infrequently. Already in town we went to the Volcano House to watch the movie about the two most memorable eruptions in recent years, the 1973 Eruption in the Westman Islands, plus the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010 that stopped air traffic across much of the Northern Atlantic.

Sunday arrived and we picked up our hire car before heading off on our tour of the Iceland countryside. As we drove east away from the capital the countryside became even more scenic with lumpy green fields, distant waterfalls and snowy mountains. Along the way we came across the Kerio volcanic crater for a brief stop down to the blue waters within before continuing and a short while later we arrived at the site of Geysir (the first discovered geyser, where the name comes from and the only Icelandic word that has entered the English language). As we walked toward the blowhole we passed boiling pools and steamy streams with the delightful aroma of sulphur. We didn’t expect Geysir itself to give us a display, which only happened during volcanic/earthquake activity, but weren’t disappointed as the smaller (25-35m) Strokkur geyser erupted every 8-10minutes. Next on our tour of the “golden circle” was Gulfoss, the waterfall that reportedly output more water than Niagara Falls. A few kilometres past Gulfoss was a glacier we wished to see, and although the map indicated that the road wasn’t paved we decided to head toward it in the hope of getting close enough to walk in. Unfortunately, we discovered the distance was “as the crow flies” as we came to the final turn off, which was a gravel road and chained off due to worse than usual conditions. Not willing to walk the 10km in we turned around to head back and although the road was bituminised we had to contend with oncoming 4WD’s that could have passed for monster trucks. The last part of the Golden Circle was Þingvellir (pronounced Thingvellir), where the Icelandic parliament had been held from 900AD to 1900AD, the longest running in the world. What was even more remarkable was that the site was between two tectonic plates so you could see where the land was drifting apart creating large crevasses in the ground (and increasing the size of Iceland by 2cm/year). With the day still bright we continued past Reykjavik, north to Akranes. At first this seemed a mistake, as we passed through the tunnel and were hit with a 1000 krona toll fee before arriving to a small uneventful town. The journey was worth it however, as we took the long way back to Reykjavik around the nearby lake and it’s mountainous hills that could be seen to have been violently pushed up out of the ground. The day ended late due to our body’s not realising how late it was with it still appearing dusk outside at midnight.

Our destination the next day was along the southern cost and with a beautiful sunny day we headed off. The first stop was at Seljalandsfoss, a tall waterfall where we were able to walk behind it. The water was crystal clear and very inviting if it weren’t for the glacial water temperature. Next was the bigger Skogarfoss where we could climb the stairway to the top and walk along it to the pools beforehand. After the falls was the town of Vik, the first point in our destination, and the nearby black beach. The beach was remarkable (voted one of the top 10 in the world) and contained pitch black, fine pebbles along the shore, with black basalt formations in the ocean and caves that appeared to be made up of rectangular columns. As we headed home we stopped in at the site of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010 where, at the foot of the mountain, was the farm that had endured the event. Arriving back at the hostel we tried to have an early night but with the sun still blazing at 10:30pm our bodies had other plans…

Our final day with the car we headed to the Blue Lagoon. It turns out this is one of the locations we had seen the gas billowing from as we flew to Iceland and driving along roads cut between the lava fields we arrived, greeted with milky blue waters along the road. The next couple of hours we spent indulging as we floated in the hot, blue waters, our faces covered in silica (after handing in my man card at the front desk), beer in hand. Feeling amazingly rejuvenated we headed back to Reykjavik to drop off the car before wandering the streets of the city a little further.

It was our last day in Iceland and we had left the best for last. We were picked up at 9am where we were taken to Laxnes farm to ride Icelandic horses. The next couple of hours were spent riding through the Iceland countryside on these unique horses (who have 2 extra gaits than the usual trot, canter and gallop). Our last afternoon was spent preparing for the following days travel as well as planning the week(s) to come.

The day we flew out we were up at 5am (although the sun beat us again!!) to be picked up and transferred to the airport. We had had an amazing time in a spectacular and unique country. The only thing we would have changed is being pampered at the Blue Lagoon after subjecting ourselves to horse riding, but our sore rumps and cowboy waddle just served as a nice reminder of the great experiences we’d had. Our flight back to Luton was uneventful before heading to London for our train ride through the “Chunnel” to Paris.

Leaving London

After leaving the hotel in ExCel we returned to the Astor Hyde park Hostel where our adventure had started. After storing our luggage we headed off intent on visiting Hyde Park and the adjoining Kensington Palace. Kayla, however, had other ideas, so off we went trekking in search of her new Chromebook. After traversing London in search of a store that had one in stock we headed back to the hostel for an early night.

Up early we headed off to Wellington's Arch to await the arrival of the Free Walking Tour operators, to find out if we could use the tickets we had purchased in December to go on the Old City of London tour they ran, later that day. While we waited we enjoyed London's hottest day in awhile by lounging in the square soaking up the sun. A short while later we were happily informed that we could join the tour and so we headed off to pass the time until the tour started at 3:30pm. The next few hours were spent cycling and walking through Westminster before crossing the Thames for a stroll north past the London Eye heading for London Bridge. Passing the Tate Modern we came across Shakespeares Globe (a recreation of the theatre his plays initially were played at) where we decided to book a show for the following evening to Shakespeare's "The Tempest" hoping to experience some of what it was like for entertainement in London of old.

With the time for the tour drawing closer we jumped on a Barclay Bike, recrossing the river to head toward the meeting place in Covent Garden. Unfortunately, being a public holiday, everyone else was out using the bikes as well and every bike dock we came to was full with others waiting to drop their bikes off. With our free half an hour almost at it's end we were finally able to dock, after assisting some Dutch tourists with hiring two bikes themselves, before running back to Covent Garden just in time for the start of the tour.

The next 3 hours were spent walking the (actual) city of London, being informed of some of the beginnings of the city as well as visiting St Pauls Cathedral before ending at the Tower of London. Back on new bikes we headed back to the hostel, hoping for an early night. Upon arrival we discovered an American couple plus a fellow Perthite had joined us in the dorm resulting in many stories being swapped until late at night.

The next day we were up early again (no thanks to the sun conditioning our bodies by rising at 5am..) to mail the last of our excess baggage from the Van back to Perth before an early lunch ready for the day ahead. With our London Eye booking not until 3:30pm we spent the time walking leisurely through Westminster along St James Park admiring the many different blooming flowers and trees, working our way passed Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament to arrive at the London Eye. Our half hour on the London Eye offered great views of London with information provided by our guide, who pointed out some buildings we knew and many we didn't, often with humorous anecdotes. To finish off the London Eye experience we visited the 4D movie provided that offered further visuals of the Eye and the city at times such as New Years eve with fireworks blasting.

Our show at Shakespeare's Globe wasn't until 7:30pm so we spent a bit of time exploring the Tate Modern which contained many interesting, unusual and wierd pieces of art. For me, the stupidest was a mirror glued to a canvas... Apparently that's all it takes to get a piece of work included in one of the biggest contemporary art collections in the world, or maybe that is why it is the biggest.

The next 3 hours at the show were fantastic. We had been a bit aprehensive about what to expect having no idea what the play was about and not being big Shakespeare fans but we were pleasantly surprised. Being a comedy it worked in our favour and the night was spent with lots of laughter and a great show. Finishing late we decided to jump back on some bikes to get home quickly. It would seem that someone was trying to have a laugh at our expense however, as unlike the previous day where we couldn't find a free space to dock a bike, at 11pm at night we couldn't find a bike at a dock to hire. Walking half the way home we finally found a couple of bikes and headed off to a late night to bed.

Our last morning in London was spent preparing for the move and planning our future travels. After saying our goodbyes we jumped onto the train and headed to Luton. After checking into the hotel we spent a little time in Luton, checking where we would catch the bus early the following morning as well as exploring the local mall. The remainder of the day was spent relaxing in the hotel and then an early night. We were up at 4am and at the bus stop early to catch the 5am bus to the airport. After an easy checkin we boarded our Easy Jet plane headed for Iceland.