Wednesday, 24 November 2010

London, a year on

It's been just over a year since we left London.  Just over a year since the West Walk, Trafalgar Square, the 8.32am from Paddington to Oxford, the Wheatsheaf, Big Tesco and Little Tesco, St Paul's cathedral.

Yesterday and over the weekend we took advantage of a special and got more than 500 of our best photos from our two-plus years overseas. Looking through them we realised that we haven't printed enough from our time in London.  We've not captured all the wonderful times we had there.

As you might have picked up, we're feeling nostalgic.

London is the best of all the big cities I've visited.  Here are some of the reasons why that's so, and why I miss it.

It's filled with fantastic old buildings, and some cool modern ones too
World-class football on tap (no offence to the Wellington Phoenix)
Ye Olde Pubs

International mates
And then there's wandering the narrow streets and taking in the vibe of Soho. The parks in the summer, teeming with footballers, dogs, squirrels and topless Poms. The zillion cool places within a few hours on the train. The cheap flights to Europe and North Africa, The British, Natural History, V&A and other fabulous free museums.  The Tube and how it will take you most everywhere you need to go. Being mocked for the accent.

London. Well good yeah innit bruv. Time and money permitting, we'll be back.

Friday, 12 November 2010


I'm spending a few days in Australia, and am blogging today from Sydney. Sydney's lovely - like what I imagine Auckland could be like if it had better infrastructure and weather - and I'm enjoying walking around and checking it out.

The highlight for me so far has been a wildlife centre on Darling Harbour, where I saw snakes and other creepy beasties that I would hate to see in the wild. There was a giant croc as well that gave me the heebie-geebies good and proper. The best part about the centre, though, was the koalas. I know it's terribly cliche to get a koala picture while in Australia but I don't care - aren't they cute?

Monday, 8 November 2010


Last night I discovered the newly added "stats" function on blogspot, which is able to track how many hits our blog has, where people are finding the blog from, and what posts are the most viewed. It's all very interesting, especially as it's three old posts that seem to come up in Google searches so get the most traffic at a much steadier rate than ever expected: Five Things About Egypt from May 2008, The Other Boleyn Girl and Historical Accuracy from March 2008, and Lauren's Pole Dancing Tips from May 2007. Although, anything with "pole dancing tips" in the title really should not have been a surprise. The stats are an interesting reminder that while people may not comment, we get much more traffic than previously thought.
I also logged into my other blog, Lauren's Pint Sized Book Reviews, and found that also has many more hits than expected. Given that no-one has ever commented on it ever, writing it felt a little like talking to myself. I know that hits shouldn't matter, but finding out that people are actually reading my pint-sized reviews inspired me to write some more, so feel free to check them out!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Strangers in a Strange Land

When you're travelling, you spend a lot of time staring at strange things and strange people. Well, unless you're the kind of person who travels to eat, drink and spend time on the beach. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but we most love seeing things that are different - in their geography, culture or time.

So it's a bit weird to have the tables turned and become tourist attractions ourselves.

Another boost for Sino-Kiwi relations
But that's what we were sometimes in both China and India.  Both countries have massive middle classes that can afford to both travel to the big sights in their lands and take cameras with them. Many of those people are from places off the traveller radar, so they probably will not have seen a pasty, bare-legged Westerner before, and often love taking photos of and with you. It's quite charming - and turnabout is fair play - but can get a bit much at times. And sleazy too, with Lauren and some men. Not a problem that affects me, strangely.

The walls of Pingyao, which date from 1370AD
It got a bit overwhelming once on the walls of Pingyao, a beautiful historic town about halfway between Beijing and Xi'an.  As the best-preserved Imperial era town in a country that has concreted over much of its architectural history, Pingyao is a massive internal tourism drawcard.  Being there on a Saturday, the area around one of the entrances to the wall was packed with visitors. Several guys wanted to take a photo of me and I obliged for a few snaps, then I looked up and saw a score of other Chinese visitors rushing towards me with their cameras!  We fled. The paparazzi scence is not for us.
View down one of the main streets from a watchtower
Pingyao, by the way, is a wonderful place. It is the home of Chinese banking and as such became a wealthy place, with many beautiful wooden houses. Unfortunately for the bankers, the interference of the Western powers and rise of Western banking in the 1800s brought the good times to an end. But that was fortunate for the bankers' descendants, as the town became a backwater and thus its heritage was preserved. Now it's been repaired and repainted to make Pingyao a beautiful and chilled out spot to spend a few days. You get a feel for how China was a century or two ago.

Courtyard of our hostel. Mint.
It's definitely somewhere worth taking a camera. After all, there's lots of strange wide-eyed people with backpacks hanging around.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010