Trip 1 European adventures and buying a motorhome

Trip Start Dec 10, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Our European Adventures - Trip 1

Day 1 -Saturday December 10th - Japan
Today we left Brisbane for Tokyo, Japan. We were lucky to get exit seats so the flight was not too bad as we had a fair bit of room. After landing in Japan we met up with Yoshi and Yumiko at the hotel, it was great to see them and Yumiko was so excited she was jumping up and down and had practiced some English greetings. They then took us out to dinner at a Korean BBQ style restaurant done with traditional Japanese food. Yoshi ordered half the restaurant for us, including tongue, baby octopus - which Wayne had to eat raw but then decided to BBQ which was better. Yoshi ordered Wayne a beer that was absolutely huge (750ml) and I tried traditional rice wine which was very nice. I managed to remember some of my words from five years of studying Japanese but not a lot. After dinner we went back to our hotel for tea and Yoshi helped us to plan our week in the Osaka area. We were then so exhausted that we fell asleep in our short little rock hard Japanese beds.

Day 2 - Sunday December 11th - Japan/London
The weather was lovely and cool at 10 degrees. We left early for the airport as we were told that the Japanese security can take a long time to get through - it was not too bad !!. The flight then took us 12.5 hours to get to London. It was great flying over the city as we could see all of the landmarks. We noticed a huge fire in the distance and we later learned that it was from an explosion at an oil refinery which is apparently one of the biggest fires in England in 50 years. After checking into our hotel we went out to explore the Paddington area and had dinner at a local pub where we had bangers and mash and a pint of lager for dinner. It gets dark here at 4pm so it is a bit weird as it feels like night in the middle of the day. It was about 2 degrees but we loved it and we had to get the heating turned down in our room as it was too hot - we are freaks!!

Day 3 - Monday December 12th - London
Today we woke up ridiculously early at 5am as we are out of whack. We thought we would go out early and see some sights but it was still pitch black. We caught the tube to the Marble Arch and got tickets to go on the open air double decker bus sight seeing. While we were wainting for the bus to start we went for a walk along Oxford Street which had amazing shops and Christmas decorations everywhere. However, we soon learnt that things don't open here until around 10am in the morning. We saw lots of great things today including Big Ben, the houses of parliament, the London eye, Trafalgar square, Piccadilly Circus, waterloo, the tower of London, London Bridge, St Paul's Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and Westminster Abbey. We also had a look around Harrod's where Wayne was rather impressed with the food courts.

Day 4 - Tuesday December 13th - London
Today we decided to see a few more places in depth. We had our breakfast again at Paddington Station which consisted of a French stick with some yummy filling and hot chocolate. We managed to find our way via the tube to the Tower Bridge, however we had to change trains a couple of times as there were delays on our line due to a security scare at another station. One thing we have noticed on the tube and at the railway stations is how very security conscious they are after the bombings earlier this year - there is constant warnings about not leaving baggage around, everything is closely monitored and there seems to be a high police presence. The police here don't carry guns but will beat the living day lights out of you with their battens!!!. The Tower Bridge exhibition was very interesting, and as we arrived we were lucky enough to see it open two times to let through some large ships. We then got to go inside and learn about the history of its design, walk across the top crossings and then go through the engine room. We then walked a short distance over to the Tower of London, where we went on a tour with a Beef Eater to learn about its varied history. We got to see the crown jewels (the Queens not the Beef Eaters!) which were amazing and also King Henry the 8th's armor and weaponry. The Tower also has about seven Ravens' (big black birds) that live in the grounds and there is a saying that there must be six there at all times otherwise London will fall. Next we went to Buckingham Palace to have a closer look, and we saw the guards prancing around at the front as well. We then attempted to catch a bus back to Paddington station but after about 30 minutes we realized that we were getting further and further away from London and were heading in the wrong direction. We finally got on the right bus and got home but it took us about an hour longer than it should have. After a quick change we got back onto the tube to go into town to meet up with Dan and Stacey (an English couple we met on a cruise on the Great Barrier Reef) and Camilla. We had a great night of drinking and eating and catching some of the sights such as Leicester Square, Covent Garden, China Town and West End.

Day 5 - Wednesday December 14th - London/Berlin
Up bright and early this morning to pack up and catch a plane to Berlin. We had to find our way to London Luton which is out in the sticks and not really in London at all. One thing that the English forgot to design in their tube stations was elevators, because it's not that much fun carry heavy suitcases up a million stairs to change platforms. One nice old Englishman with a walking cane offered to carry my suitcase up the stairs for me (as I don't think he realized I was with Wayne) but I think that I should have carried his up for him instead!! He was a lovely guy who also helped us to find the right platform for the next train. Today turned out to be a bit of a shocker - after getting on the train I realized I left my medication (worth thousands) in the fridge at the hotel and could not go back or we would miss our fight, then we did not realize we had to get separate tickets for the second train and got blasted at the end by the station master (He was French need I say more!) who fortunately did not fine us for not buying tickets before we got on and then I lost one of my favorite earrings from Venice. Luckily the hotel was very helpful with my medication and is sending it to Berlin for me. Easy jet was surprisingly good as we had heard horror stories, and we were very grateful to have Christina pick us up from the airport in Berlin. Tonight we spent time with Christina and Holger in their lovely house getting to know them and more about Germany. Christina fed us with amazing breads, spreads, cheeses and meats for an afternoon snack. We went out to dinner and also met Christina's mum, Oma, who we will be staying with on the 18th when Christina and Holger's daughter's arrive back home for Christmas. We are lucky that Christina and Holger speak very good English as we are finding the German language a bit hard to pick up. It was interesting talking to Christina about the fall of the Berlin wall. I never realized that for some people like them it would not be a completely positive thing as for them it meant a loss of income by 10% and an increase on pressure on their public welfare system as so many foreigners were allowed in. At present their unemployment rate is at 20%, which is huge!!

Day 6 - Thursday December 15th - Berlin
Did not do much today but recover and rest. We went for a walk to the local shopping street and just looked in all of the shops. They have wonderful bakeries here with great bread. Wayne cooked dinner tonight as Christina had to go to the hospital to have exploratory surgery done but she is O.K.

Day 7 - Friday December 16th - Berlin
Today Christina took Gemeah to the doctor as since Wednesday night she had broken out in red bites all over - like sandfly bight but there is no sandflys here. Much to her delight the doctor has said that she thinks it is from the hotel in London where she picked up a bed bug - so much for staying in a nice hotel. The doctor said that even in the best hotels in the world they can't stop bed bugs as they are no longer allowed to spray with DDT. So we have had to wash everything and disinfect everything and try to stop scratching!! Hopefully it will work but she has to return to the doctor on Monday. The rest of the day we spent looking at motor homes as Christina was kind enough to drive us around. We of course like the most expensive ones!! While we were looking at the motor homes it started to snow which was exciting for us. Tonight Inga arrived in town from Frankfurt and we went in to pick her up from the train station called Zoo station (as it is next to the famous Berlin Zoo). On the way back we were given a great sight seeing trip of all the top sights in Berlin.

Day 8 - Saturday December 17th- Berlin
Today we had a bit of a sleep in and got up and had a late breakfast as Holger and Christina had their friends coming from Ossnasbruck. We had a lovely big breakfast and then went for a walk to the local shopping street where they were having Christmas markets. It was nice walking through the markets as it was snowing and very cold. Gemeah has to get new shoes because she needs some that are suitable for the snow and wet so we went shopping this afternoon to buy a Michelin man coat that is more waterproof and special walking boots to keep out the snow and wet.

Day 9 - Sunday December 18th - Berlin
Today the Sellien's went to pick up Heike and Achim who have arrived from the USA. It is exciting for Christina and Holger to see them as Heike is pregnant and has not been home for a while. Wayne and I ventured out by ourselves and tried our very limited German to catch the train into Potsdamer Platz to do a bit of sightseeing. We arrived and had a look around the Sony Centre which was beautiful as it had a Christmas market happening as well as an ice skating rink where everyone was skating and also playing bowls on ice. Our sightseeing did not last long though as Wayne was freezing and shivering and had to go home to get warmer clothes on. We went back to meet Heike and Achim and then got on some warmer clothes. We went back to Potzdamer Platz and went to explore the Christmas markets - the German's certainly know how to celebrate Christmas. Whilst we were drinking some gluh wine (what the English call mulled wine which is wine infused with cinnamon etc), there were Christmas carol singers singing "let it Snow" and then the sky's opened up and it started to snow all over the markets. It was beautiful.

Day 10 - Monday December 19th- Berlin
Mobile home hunting today. We visited a few dealers 1hr south of Berlin. It started snowing heavily when we arrived and so we were freezing once we finished looking 3hrs later. We are so thankful for Holger taking us out there and interpreting.
On the way home we met up with the family at a castle in the outer suburbs of East Berlin. It was not like a castle as we know it, but is was more like an English manor. It was bought for 1 euro after the fall of the wall. Now it has been restored and is a tourist attraction with 7 or so restaurants in the old barns and in summer has seating in the centre of the village courtyard for about 400 people. Great authentic German food with great beer!

Day 11 - Tuesday December 20th- Berlin
Visa Cards Not working! GRRHH! Spent the afternoon trying to find out why none of our accounts are not working. Tonight we went into Potsdamer Plaz again tonight to see "Narnia, the Lion the Bitch and the Wardrobe" at the Sony Centre. This cinema only plays movies in English and had 8 cinemas! I wonder if there is a market for foreign language films in Oz? Well maybe Japanese speaking films on the Gold Coast might work! It was interesting to try and get back to Lichtenrade as we waited on the train station for 40 minutes and then realized that something was wrong as our train normally came every 20 minutes. We finally found someone who spoke English and managed to get on the last train and get home at about 1am.

Day 12 - Wednesday December 21st - Berlin
Today was a write off as we were up all night and morning talking to the bank and Visa and it turns out our cards had been cancelled due to a stuff up! Great we are in a foreign country and have no money - lucky it has happened somewhere where we have friends to help us and feed us. We had new Gold Visa's arrive the day we left and I had been informed that these would not be activated until our return. Unbelievable, the bank gave us some incorrect information! So we have had to cancel our new cards (the ones at home in Oz) and ordered emergency replacement cards. We are supposed to get them by no later then Thursday arvo. I think not !. So we have had the NAB organize an international money transfer (at there expense of course!) to Holger and Christina's German account just in case.

Gem went out shopping (only window shopping as no credit cards were working) and for dinner with Inga and one of her girlfriends tonight. Wayne went with Heike & Achim to Saarow Therme thermal spa at Bad Saarow-Mitte, a town 45kms east of Berlin about 20mins from the Polish border. The thermal spa's were not allowed in East Germany prior to the wall coming down and since then there have been quite a few built. The town has been re-built around the spa and well-being centre. The water is pumped in from a nearby thermal lake "Scharmutzel-see" into the centre with an enormous spa that is approx 2 Olympic pools in size and heated to 35'c(Outside temp was 2'c tonight). It has 2 thermal pools 1 indoor and 1 out. They are linked together through a series of sitting alcoves with jet streams and water falls. I didn't try the sauna as I didn't feel like being but naked with a bunch of Germans! Only because I wouldn't have understood them except for the word wiener! I know now why these places are so popular in winter after spending two hours in the spa. So relaxed, I had the best nights sleep for a few weeks. All the German's wear speedo's or as we affectionately call them "Dick Togs" or "Budgie Smugglers". Achim was very amused to hear them called Budgie Smugglers and laughs every time he hears it.
P.S. Thankfully we didn't go to New York as planned. We would have spent a lot of time walking with all the transport strikes!

Day 13 - Thursday December 22nd- Berlin
Up early today (8.00am) still dark and it feels like 6am. We caught the train to Potsdamer plaz and walked up to Brandenburg Tor or Gate (built by the Romans during there occupation around AD 962 and which was a famous landmark which ultimately symbolized the division of East and West Berlin) which has the central tourist information. We have decided to do 3 walking tours Berlins Famous walk, Iron Curtain and Berlin Wall tour and the Third Reich Tour (WWII Tour).
This afternoon we looked at another motor home which we were put onto by Holger's mother. We made an offer and will talk with them tomorrow. On the way to see the motor home we gave Christina the Navman to use, and we spent the journey killing our selves laughing as Christina and Holger kept talking to the unit as it gave them directions (i.e. "yes you are wright" "No you are wrong, I will show you another way".) We have spent the evening researching after market options and trying to make a decision on which mobile home has the best options for our little adventure and resale. Our Visa cards still didn't arrive! So frustrating! However, thankfully the NAB was able to transfer some money into Holger's German account. Phew we are no longer penniless!

Day 14 - Friday December 23rd - Berlin
Today we spent with Holger trying to negotiate with the dealer the price of the mobile home we had seen - but he would not come down too much in price. We have decided to go with the private deal for the mobile home as while it is 5 years old it is practically new as it only has 20,000km on the clock. Wayne and Christina went shopping for food for Christmas and they came back with heaps of food and heaps of beer !!! Wayne now wants to live in Germany as the beer is so good and so cheap. Gemeah read her book and organized a few things for the mobile home. Then we went out with Holger to go and buy a Christmas tree which was interesting - they have real ones which look like our fake plastic ones!! Oma is so cute, every night we go home she tries to force feed us more food and has a little present waiting on our pillows.

Day 15 - Saturday December 24th - Berlin
The German's celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve so today we woke up early to go to the local shopping centre to buy everyone Christmas presents and we didn't do too badly considering we can't really speak any of the language. We then went over to the Sellien's to relax, wrap presents and Wayne was making a sticky date pudding for dessert and marinating the meat - I think they are enjoying having a chef in the kitchen. We then had cake at 3.00 and then unwrapped presents - we did not expect anything but were very spoilt with lovely gifts from everyone. We then went out to Eagle's Mill which is an old Windmill to watch a brass band play Christmas Carols. Back home to have a feast which consisted of cooking lots of different meats and vegetables on a Korean BBQ !

Day 16 - Sunday December 25th - Berlin
Today was the best weather we have had since arriving in Germany - the sky was blue and whilst it was about 0 degrees there was no wind and no rain and no snow!!. We had a lazy day having a brunch and then playing the new board games that everyone got for Christmas presents. Too much alcohol today so off to bed early!

Day 17 - Monday December 26th- Berlin
Today we got up nice and early to get the train to Zoo Station to go on the famous Insider Walking Tour. Snow was predicted today and boy did it snow- it came down and everything was quickly turned into a winter wonderland - lucky we rugged up! The tour lasted about 5 hours and it was great walking through the snow. We started at the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedachtnis Church - which is an amazing old church that was bombed during WW2 and was never repaired - but a new tower was built next to it. Other highlights of the tour included seeing the longest remaining piece of the Berlin Wall which stands next to the SS & Gestapo Headquarters and learning about the collapse of the Wall and the unification of Germany. We also walked a top of Hitler's Bunker and learnt about the final accounts regarding Hitler's suicide, the last days in his bunker and the fate of his remains. Then we saw the Reichstag (which is their Parliament house) which has a futuristic glass dome atop as in 1933 it was destroyed in a fire that marked the Nazi's rise to power. This building also marked the fall of Berlin as the final battle to take over the city from the Nazi's occurred here. We also saw the memorial for the Nazi book burning out the front of Humbolt University where Marx and Albert Einstein taught. Close by was a statue of Friedrich the great - where in the last day when they were redoing the road they found a bomb from WW2 and had to detonate it - lucky the statue was not blown up. We also passed Checkpoint Charlie which is where the Stasi and CIA spied on each other from and where escape attempts were made both successful and failed. We also visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe which was really interesting as the guide said that it was just finished in May and today as the first time it has ever been covered in snow. None of the ground is even in the memorial and as you walk through it the large rectangular blocks (which are representative of a Jewish coffin) raise and fall in an attempt to make you feel unsure and uneasy - which is how the Jewish people would have felt when they were carted away in carriages to their death. We also saw the ruins of the Berlin Palace and shell of the Poliburo's "Palace of the Republic" and learning about the story of the collapse of the Soviet Union. We had many snow fights today on the walk back to Holger and Christina's and then Holger greeted us home with a few snow balls.
Tonight we took everyone out for dinner to a Greek Restaurant for dinner and Wayne and Holger had far too many Ouzo's as it was complimentary. There were many more snow ball fights on the way home and too much laughing due to everyone being a bit pissy!!

Day 18 - Tuesday December 27th - Berlin
Today we had to get up really early to take Heike and Achim to the airport as they are now off to his parents house for two weeks - his parents live in Rotweil (like the dog). We then continued on to drive 3 hours into East Germany to the town of Schwerin where Holger's sister and nephew live and run a dairy farm. On the way to the farm we stopped in the main city centre and went inside an amazing palace that was built for one of the Prussian Dukes in 940AD then burnt down, rebuilt and added on over the centuries etc... and was still occupied by royalty only 100 years ago. Then off to the farm, more like a country estate on 150 hectares, for a fun day of eating another Christmas lunch, having snow fights, playing with their dogs (one was called Ludwig), pulling their kids around on a sleigh, learning how the dairy farm works and eating more Christmas cakes!. Oh the food today was fantastic, Wong was in heaven. Wild Boar (hunted 3 days ago) German potatoes spetzle (like miniature fried gnocchi), Pickled red cabbage, roasted chestnuts, caramelized onions with raisins, orange salad, turnips in sour cream(specialty of elke region) fresh beetroot that was shaved and cooked in red wine. Oh and the cakes,

A few things we have learnt about Germans in the past 2 weeks - they like to drive fast, they have nice cars (too many BMW's and Mercedes to be distracted by), they talk loud, the majority of them speak English very well, they like their schnapps, they have great beer, they are big into recycling everything, they have great breads, they know how to celebrate Christmas, they are very hospitable. They don't eat cereal for breakfast but it normally consists of a variety of meats, spreads and breads. They don't use sheets, just a base sheet and use their doona as a top sheet. You can't buy double doona, they are all single bed size.

Day 19 - Wednesday December 28th - Berlin
Today we spent some time with Inga before she left and then took her to the train station so she could return home. Christina took us shopping on the way home to IKEA and another store so that we could stock up on items for the motor home - it took most of the day and night.

Day 20 - Thursday December 29th - Berlin
Today we went into town to go to some of the museums. It was shit weather - freezing and raining. We walked about 5 kms to the first place as Wayne said he knew where he was going but after I asked him to check he realized we went the wrong way and we had to catch the underground back as it was too cold to walk. We got to the Checkpoint Charlie museum and the line was ridiculous so we decided we would walk further in the shit weather to the Jewish museum - we found it but the line was even worse! We thought we would be the only crazy suckers out in the snow and rain but obviously not. So we decided to go to Zoological station and visit the old bombed cathedral - the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche and have a closer look at it - it was pretty amazing. Then we spent about a couple of hours walking along Kurfurster straze which is the main shopping strip in that part of the city.

Day 21 - Friday December 30th - Berlin
Today we spent organizing things for the motor home. The weather was great - it stopped snowing and raining but it was still cold. At 4pm we went to make the contract on the motor home with Mr. Arnold. We are hoping to be able to pick it up on Monday so we are hoping that the snow will disappear as at present we can't get it out of his street due to the snow being so bad. When we were there the locals were on their cross country skis going down the street as that was the only way they could get around as their cars were snowed in. Tonight we went into the city and walked around, had some dinner, looked at the shops and then went to the movies and walked home in minus 15 degrees.

Day 22 - Saturday December 31st - Berlin
It's New Years Eve tonight and everyone has been letting off fire crackers all day. You can buy them here in any shop corner! Ruphus would not be happy at all. We went into town today and stayed in the huge line to see the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. It was very interesting to learn of the history of the division of Germany and all the ways that people tried to escape into Berlin. They were very inventive and took many risks - escape techniques ranged from making exact homemade replicas of the American Uniforms and walking through the border patrol, being hidden in cars and hollowed out surfboards, making a home made hot air balloon and flying over, digging tunnels from safe house to safe house, making flying foxes from house roof tops close to the wall etc. We then went to Hachescher Hofe which is like a little maze of a market place - I have seen pictures from the internet during summer where they place all café's outside etc but in the freezing cold it was a little bit different. Then off home for a lovely evening meal and some board games with Christina and Holger - fire crackers were still going off. For New Years we went up to the top floor of Holger's work building which is one of the highest buildings in the city. It was awesome as we had a 360 degree view of Berlin and it was here that we realized how much they really do like there fire crackers as the official ones did not start to midnight but the entire city was going off!! At midnight they went even more berserk everywhere - we really have not seen anything like it!! It sounded like the city was being bombed! The drive home was interesting as there were people in the streets throwing fire crackers at the car and had them going off in the middle of the streets - Holger had to keep dodging them all. After New Years we went home and let off our own fire works which was a lot of fun and Wayne and Holger did not really seem to want to stop but they finally ran out!

Day 23 - Sunday 1st January 2006 - Berlin
Happy New Year !!
It was a public holiday today (even though it is technically a holiday as it is the weekend) so everything is closed. We just bummed around today and read and caught up on stuff. Gemeah helped Christina with writing her report cards and data entry.

Day 24 - Monday 2ndt January 2006 - Berlin
We did not do much today. We were waiting on the money to go into the account of Mr. Arnold who we are buying the car off. Unfortunately most of the day was wasted because the banks could not transfer the money in time. Aaaggghhhh!!! We went shopping with Christina tonight to the big local shopping centre. We went a bit nuts with buying food for dinner as it is all so very cheap here. The alcohol is so cheap as well; it is actually cheaper to buy good Australian red wine here that it is at home! The mobile home has a bar so we will stock up before we go.

Day 24 - Tuesday 3rdt January 2006- Berlin
Today Wayne cooked a big breakfast and then we went off to pick up the motorhome. The money had finally arrived! Wayne took it for a test drive and all was good. He did very well considering we were driving on the wrong side of the road. Then off to the TUV (Aussie Main roads has nothing on the Germans, their so organized and thorough) which is the registration office to get the vehicle checked to make sure it is all O.K and then we handed in the paperwork to make us the official owner !. Luckily as Holger works for a section of the TUV we did not have to line up but just gave the paperwork over to one of his friends - otherwise we would have had to have lined up for hours.

Day 25 - Wednesday 4th January 2006- Berlin
Today we gave Hymer (the motorhome) a bath and cleaned him up a bit, stocked him full of equipment and learnt a little bit more about how he works. Tonight we went out to dinner again to the Greek restaurant. We had a great time eating and laughing but not so much oozo this time!

Day 26 - Thursday 5th January 2006 - Berlin
Today we went into town again and found Hugeldubel - which is a big book store in Potsdamer Plaz shopping centre that sells English Books. We stocked up on a few books to keep us occupied on our journey. We went to a gelato shop that Christina had told us to go to as it was apparently awesome and the best one in Berlin. We sat down and thought that we had done quite well to order in German - however much to our dismay when the ice-cream sundae arrived we had ordered 2 instead of one and they were bloody huge! So much for our German. Wayne had to eat most of it!!! Tonight we went to the shopping centre again to try and find Wayne a big jacket to keep him a bit warmer, we also got a board game that we have been playing so we can keep ourselves amused while driving around as well. Christina had a fall today at school on ice and hurt her hand and her face -she can't drive because her hand is so bad. Gemeah must have had sympathy for her because she then fell down the stairs and managed to put her back out!!!

Day 27 - Friday 6th January 2006 - Berlin
Today was busy but with boring stuff like food shopping to stock up the van and learning how to use the car. Oma came over and had made us all soup for lunch - it was delicious. Wayne was having a hissy fit as he could not work out the truma heating, I told him he needed to wait for Holger because he could certainly work it out because
1)He was an engineer and 2) he could read the German manual. It worked!
Holger dressed Wayne up in his mechanical TUV coat and together they worked it out and also managed to fix the electric window. I stocked up the van with all our gear and also managed to order a manual in English that we can pick up when we arrive at Margaret's place in Eston, UK. We could not managed to get any German companies to give us comprehensive insurance for Hymer as we are foreigners - we could get third party as it is compulsory in Germany but we are a bit nervous as we have never driven cars that are not comprehensively insured and this one is worth over $50k. We hope nothing goes wrong. !!

Day 28 - Saturday7th January 2006 - Germany, Nederlands, Belgium
Up early today to go and buy croissants for breaky! We had our last meal with Christina and Holger and then headed off at 11.00. Christina burst into tears as we were leaving and we all had big hugs goodbye. We drove hard today and did 790 kms and drove from Berlin, through the Netherlands and into Belgium. We stopped overnight and had a good nights sleep. Wayne did well to drive on the other side of the road in a LHD vehicle!

Day 29 - Sunday 8th January 2006- Belgium, France, England
Today we drove through to Calais, France to get onto the train and go under the tunnel to England. We were swearing a bit at the French as the signs as to where to go where bloody useless and it was all a bit confusing. We had to decide to go through straight away or try and get to an internet place and book on line so that we could save about $150. We decided to get on straight away so that we could keep driving and had to pay $440 but it was very quick and only took 25 minutes. You could not tell that you were deep under water. We got out and this time we had to drive on the right side (the left side) of the road. We drove and drove and drove and got lost a bit on one of the highways after missing the turn off. Navman was dropping in and out because of the cloud cover but managed to kick in just in time to stop us from becoming completely lost. We had to negotiate with each other to stop as Wayne was wired and wanted to keep driving and I wanted to stop as was dog tired! I won and we stopped at a Welcome Break for the night.

Day 30 - Monday 9th January 2006 - England
Today we headed off to get to Middlesborough to meet up with Margaret and drove another 400 km but managed to get very very lost !! We got lost trying to find the DVLA but eventually found it and talked to them about what we needed to do to register the car - have a bank account with your address on it and have insurance!! No problem we thought we can do that!!. We eventually found Margaret's house after getting very very lost again (there are about 90 Church Lanes to choose from on Navman and if you don't have the right suburb you are stuffed) and she was waiting out the front for us. We also did a little bit of 4 wheel driving in the Mobile Home as we went down a couple of small streets where we could not turn around so ended up having to drive over the footpath to get back onto the main street. We soon learnt that a 4 tone vehicle does not do too well on wet grass and decided that we had better not park it anywhere that does not have good traction as we won't be getting out. Margaret told us she was going to strip naked and run around out the front so we knew which house it was. She had a lovely warm meal waiting for us and a warm bed. She has a very wicked sense of humor for someone who is 84 years of age. Middlesborugh is part of the county of North Yorkshire which is famous for things such as Yorkshire pudding and Yorkshire Terriers.

Day 31 - Tuesday 10th January 2006- England
Today was a very frustrating day trying to deal with the bank and get money off our visa. We learnt that in England you just can't walk in and open a bank account, you have to make an appointment and that will often be a couple of days or weeks away !! We had huge amounts of trouble trying to get cash out of the bank, due to the problems we had earlier with the visa card. Wayne took the car off to get the MOT done on it and I went into town to try and talk to some bigger banks about getting a bank account and to find somewhere with email (as Eston is so small they don't even have email in town). Tonight we had another lovely home cooked meal and watched some hilarious British comedy like Little Britain and Titty Titty Bang Bang - Wayne could be heard laughing a couple of blocks away.

Day 32 - Wednesday 11th January 2006- England
Up early today to go into town Middlesborough to try and deal with the banks and get onto email. A very frustrating day indeed of trying to find our way around - we eventually found email but could not get an appointment with the Yorkshire until Friday!!! AAAAGGGGHHHH !!

Day 33 - Thursday 12th January 2006- England
This morning we went back into Middlesborough as we had to try and find a place that would scan our passports etc so that Gordon (a friend of mum's who is a financier) could try and get us a bank account. Then back to Eston for our meeting with Barclays Bank who were a mob of wanka's as they told us we could not open a bank account because they would not take our passport or license as acceptable forms of identity - I was about to ask them if they would like to chop my hand off for fingerprints as that may be the only other form of identity we have !!! We decided we needed a drink on the way back and stopped into one of the little local pubs called the Ship Inn where we got talking to some of the local lads who were a hoot !! Wayne had someone to talk soccer with and one of the lads gave us a number where he thinks we can get World Cup Tickets. We also rang a million insurance places to try and get insurance on the mobile home but quickly found out that no one would insure Australian Drivers, and the one company that will will only do it when the car is registered in the UK - needless to say there were many swear words flying around about the backward British car registration system and that fact that we had checked a zillion times with customs and they had said we would have no problems. We went back to the DVLA and the man there was helpful and told us that the only way around the problem is to sell the car to a British Citizen who could register it for us and then sell it back to us (without money changing hands) as we can buy a UK registered car and then register it in the UK without even having to show proof of ID but it is much harder if it is an import vehicle. Our other option was to sell it. We were nearly in tears !!!

Day 34 - Friday 13th January 2006- England
Today we woke up very early to go for our meeting with the Yorhshire Bank - who is owned by the National and will therefore hopefully give us an account. We had to cheer ourselves up today so we went to the movies then back to Margaret's for a lovely home cooked meal again.

Day 35 - Saturday 14th January 2006- Whitby
Today we went into town and hired a car the size of a go go mobile and drove to Whitby - where Captain Cook did his apprenticeship and is a famous sea side town. Margaret's brother Fred and his Wife, Jocelyn live there with their rejected guide dog, Vic, who is a black Labrador. We had a lovely time drinking tea, wine and whisky and rubbing Vic's stomach as he lay with all fours in the air. Fred was very kind and offered to get the van registered for us in his name but first of all suggested his nephew Stuart who lives a bit closer to Margaret and is a police officer.
Then we went further down into the town centre and had a huge plate of fish and chips at Margaret's favorite fish and chip shop. We then went walking around the quaint little town streets which is full of jewelry shops that sell Jet - it is made from petrified wood from the area but looks like black stone. Wayne and I then climbed the 200 steps up to the top of the burnt down abbey which had amazing views of all over Whitby and the seaside. It was beautiful. We also met a couple who had an Airedale Terrier, Curly, who was 12 years old - he was very cute and made us miss Ruphus.

Day 36 - Sunday 15th January 2006 - Scarborough
We drove out to Britain's first beachside holiday town, Scarborough. Which is ¾ hour south over the moors from Whitby. We could see why they named Redcliffe's Scarborough with the same names as they had a very similar sea side feel. It was an amazing little town with a huge Castle in the middle of it which is a famous hotel. The streets were lined with Penny Arcades, which were a bit ugly but obviously do well during the summer when all the families arrive with their kids

Day 37 - Monday 16th January 2006 - England
Today we got up bright and early to go back to the DVLA to double check all of the procedures for getting the motor home registered. We got it all sorted and then met with Stuart to discuss how he could help us get it registered, he was happy to help us out. Stuart was able to get a cover note on the car straight away which made us feel a lot better having it comprehensively insured. We just have to wait for the insurance policy to arrive in the mail (as they won't take a faxed copy) before we can go back to the DVLA to get the registration process sorted. Tonight Wayne went off to play in a poker tournament (50 people), and Gemeah and Margaret went shopping.

Day 38 - Tuesday 17th January 2006- England
The insurance policy did not turn up in the mail!! So we went into Middlesborough and looked around, emailed and went out to the movies. Margaret had another lovely home cooked meal waiting for us when we got home.

Day 39 - Wednesday 18th January 2006 - York
Today we took off for the town of York which was about an hour and ten minutes away. It was an absolutely beautiful town that was very quaint with beautiful stone buildings and a stunning Abbey in the middle of the town. York is the only walled city in England and the old town is totally surrounded by a massive wall with several torrents and large gates to let people in and out of, but was obviously put there to protect the city from invasion. We got on a sightseeing double decker bus and went around the city and saw the sights including the Shambles which are old cobbled streets where the buildings overhand the streets to protect it from the sun as this is where they used to sell meat and produce and therefore they needed the streets shaded to keep the produce fresher. The streets were filled with great shops and lots of jewelry shops (Gemeah had to control herself as anything we buy in the pound we have to multiply by 3 as out exchange rate is so poor). We learnt where the term "day light robbery" comes from - in York they were once taxed to have daylight come in through their windows - if they did not pay they had their windows bricked up by the council - thus the term "daylight robbery". Again the insurance policy did not turn up in the mail!!!

Day 40 - Thursday 19th January 2006 - Hartlepool
Today we went Hartlepool, a small seaside town, which is about 35 minutes drive from Eston. We took the road where we had to go over the famous bridge the Transporter which was opened in 1911 and basically looks like Brisbane's Storey Bridge sitting in the air and you slide along underneath it in a cabin which you drive your car onto. We went through the Hartlepool museum and then met up with Margaret for some lunch. We had to drop Margaret at the doctors and then back into Middlesborough to check out some emails and where we could go on the weekend. Again no insurance policy turned up - Stuart rang them and told them if it was not here by the weekend they could shove it!!

Day 41 - Friday 20th January 2006 - Edinburgh
We were hoping the insurance policy would turn up this morning - but no! So we decided to take off this afternoon to Scotland for the weekend. We drove into Edinburgh and discovered that the quickest road was not a highway but a small winding road which was a bit scary as it was very dark by 3.00 and the road was only one lane and very hilly. Just before we got to the border we stopped at a café and the man there was kind enough to tell us that from that point there were 39 speed cameras into Edinburgh so we should not speed !. We found out way into Edinburgh and to our hotel for the night - it looked pretty amazing by night so we could not wait to see it in daylight.

Day 42 - Saturday 21st January 2006 - Edinburgh
As we walked down to catch the double decker sightseeing bus the city was filled with the sound of the bagpipes. The main streets are just amazing as they are filled with old buildings, the massive castle sitting on top of the old volcanic rock and the massive pointed cliff in the distance. We got on the sightseeing bus and saw lots of things including the Scott monument, the Royal Scottish Academy, the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre, the new modern Parliament house (which had a budget of 43 million pound and ended up cost 445 million pound), the royal mile alongside the famous Edinburgh castle. We went into the castle which was absolutely amazing and offered unbelievable views of the entire city. Things that the Scots and Edinburgh are famous for are J.K Rowling who wrote Harry Potter and based Hogworts on one of the castles there, Scotch Whisky, Tartan, Kilts and Bagpipes (of course), Scottish Shortbread, Haggis (which they serve for breakfast and looks gross), Brave heart and the place where Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was inspired by one of the local councilors who was a politician during the day and a thief, drunk and gambler by night. It is also where the rhyme " Georgy Porgy Puddin and Pie" comes from as King George who lived here weighed 185 kg and ate a lot of pudding and pie and liked to kiss the ladies at each gathering he was invited to. Tonight we drove to Glasgow.

Day 43 - Sunday 22nd January 2006 - Glasgow
Today we woke up and got on a sightseeing bus of Glasgow. We were a little bit disappointed with Glasgow as it just does not compare to Edinburgh as it is a much more modern city. We saw the city Chambers, Glasgow Cathedral, the tall ships, Glasgow University, the art galleries, and Royal concert hall. The one thing that Glasgow is famous for is it's shopping which they say is apparently only second to London, so we got off at the main street and walked through all the shopping malls.

Day 44 - Monday 23rd January 2006 - England
The insurance policy finally turned up on Saturday morning (another things that is a bit different they get mail delivered on Saturdays). So we drove back from Glasgow to Eston which took about 4.5 hours - and there was no getting lost! We met with Stuart and got all of the paper work into the DVLA, only to be told a new rule that they had failed to mention last time - being that they actually need to inspect the motor home !!! They told us that the only appointment that they could do was in a weeks time - We were all just about ready to head butt them when they checked again and got us in for tomorrow afternoon - lucky otherwise it could have got ugly!! Nothing is fast in England - it will take them between 2-6 weeks before they will even get the registration papers back to Stuart - then we have to go through the whole process again when we put it in our names. We have decided that we will try and get away for the last couple of weeks as we have had enough of the English for the time being!! Margaret has taught us some great English sayings though which consists of "smashing, hello pet, luuveelly, don't be daft".

Day 45 - Tuesday 24th January 2006 - England
We have found a great Japanese restaurant in Middlesborough so we went off to have some lunch, then check email and plan where we are going to head off next week. We took the mobile home back to the DVLA this afternoon and the "inspection" took all of five minutes which consisted of them checking the chassis number and measuring the length of the vehicle. Stuart, Wayne and myself were all just about to kill them as we could not understand why they could not spare five minutes yesterday to do the "inspection" and had we not pressured them it would have been another weeks waiting. There were more swear words from both us and Stuart!!! At least we know that the native poms also get frustrated with some of their stupid systems.

Day 46 - Wednesday 25th January 2006 - England
Gemeah took Margaret shopping this morning and then we spent a lot of doing some research on where we could store the mobile home for the couple of months we will be away. Gemeah also had another appointment with the physio to get her back put back in and Wayne spend more time researching our options for where we can use our Accor membership for next week - at this stage a toss up between Malta, Cyprus or Nice (in France). Unfortunately we have both got quite bad chest infections and have not been feeling the greatest.

Day 47 - Thursday 26th January 2006 - England
Today we had more great Japanese food and then set of check out some of the storage sites for the mobile home. We got talking to one of the owners "Harry" and he was telling us that he gets frustrated with England and wants to leave to live elsewhere because it is a NO country - that is everyone will tell you what you can't do but won't give you any solutions - sounds a bit similar to our situation with registering the van. We also finalized our travel plans for the weekend - we are off to Cyprus as we wanted to go to a place where we can't go later with the mobile home.

Day 48 - Friday 27th January 2006 - England
We cleaned up the mobile home today and put it into storage - it was sad leaving it there and frustrating that we have not been able to put it to good use as yet. We then went and picked up the other car that we have hired to get to Gatwick airport - Wayne was rather excited as it was a VW golf and a really nice car to drive. After a late night, we were not able to sleep due to Wayne having massive coughing fits - so we decided to leave for Gatwick airport a couple of hours earlier than expected and set off at 4.00am We had a good run with the traffic and it took about 6.5 hours to drive to Gatwick. The fog on the highway was unbelievable and quite spooky.

Day 49 - Saturday 28th January 2006 - Cyprus
A day of flying and we finally arrived in Paphos airport at 7.30 at night. We learnt that Cyprus is on their own version of the pound which is called the Cypriot Pound and has a higher exchange rate than the Great British Pound (GBP) so we lost more money in converting GBP to CP!!! We have to times everything by 3 or more! We had an interesting taxi ride from the airport to the hotel with a young driver who thought that he was Michael Schumacher and did about double the speed limit, drove on the wrong side of the road and talked on his mobile phone at the same time! A bit hair raising. We got to the resort in one piece and were happy to find that it is indeed a 4 star hotel and very nice and looks like a traditional Greek style resort with the white washed villas with the vibrant blue doors etc.

Day 50 - Sunday 29th January 2006 - Cyprus
Aaaaahhhhhh the Mediterranean - the weather is warm, the sun is shining and the sky is blue even though it is winter. Cyprus we learnt is the third biggest Island in the Mediterranean and not much opens on a Sunday. We had a lovely sleep in which was great considering we had not slept for about 24 hours and then went and had a lazy lunch at one of the local cafes where they had the final of the Australian Open on as the challenger was from Cyprus and everyone was cheering him on - but he did not beat the Swiss player who won it last year. We then went for a walk into the local harbourside and went through Paphos Castle which is more really like an ancient fort that is built next to the sea - it was once used to hold prisoners and to look out for invaders. Tonight we went into the hotel bar to get some drinks and they had Steve Irwin the Crocodile Hunter on the TV - they all love him and think he is great. We had a few cocktails and much to Gemeah's surprise as Cosmopolitan in Cyprus is made from Lemon Juice and not Cranberry Juice!! Oh well it tasted all right. We were the only ones in the bar so our bar man ordered us some traditional Greek food from a local take away and then proceeded to get us a bit tipsy on ouzo, vodka and beer! His name was Alfonzo and he was from Egypt (which is only a half hour flight from Cyprus) and he told us lots of interesting things about Egypt and Cyprus. We spent the rest of the night talking to another couple form Wales.

Day 51 - Monday 30tht January 2006- Cyprus
One of the things we have not mentioned so far is that in England all of the pavements are uneven which is not a good thing when your ankles are stuffed from netball - consequently Gemeah fell over on about 6 occasions after her foot hit the pavement and her ankle went the wrong way - today it has caught up and her foot has caused her great agony and therefore she is hobbling around - so we did not do much walking today. We booked some local tours around Cyprus and over to the Turkish ruled side and our hotel manager was kind enough to take us shopping at the local shopping centre to stock up on food supplies - we have a self contained unit so Wayne the master chef is going to whip us up some food!! This afternoon we went for a walk (or very slow hobble in Gem's case) along the beachfront and had a few ouzo's at the bar.

Day 52 - Tuesday 31st January 2006 - Cyprus
Today we had to get up early to go on an all day tour to the Troodos Mountains and Mount Olympus. Apparently in Cyprus winter is quite unique as the country has such extreme variations - where we are it is sunny but by the time we got to the mountains we were driving through snow. We visited quite a few places and saw Aphrodite's birth Rock and stopped off at the Kykkos monastery of Cyprus - it was beautiful and covered in amazing mosaics. We had a very yummy traditional lunch of roasted lamb and potato and then set off for Mt Olympus. We were actually a bit disappointed with Mt Olympus as we thought it would be grander.

Day 53 - Wednesday 1st February 2006 - Cyprus
Today we hired a car and went for a drive out to the Tombs of the Kings which is an archeological dig site of fascinating network of underground tombs dating from the 3rd century BC. Everything is quite laid back in Cyprus, we have quickly learnt that they drive like nutters, park anywhere they want to and aren't really too concerned about safety as tomb site had massive holes all through the ground which you could easily fall into. We were planning on going to Lemesos this afternoon but Wayne developed a really bad tooth ache and had to find a dentist - he had to get a hole in his tooth temporarily filled.

Day 54 - Thursday 2nd February 2006 - Cyprus
Today we drove to Lemesos which is Cyprus' second largest city and is the main passenger and cargo port. The tourist area on the waterfront was rather horrible as it was lined with massive hotels and tacky souvenir shops. We went to the old town and visited the well restored castle where Richard the Lionheart married Berenegaria of Navarre in 1191 and had a medieval museum. We then set off to try and find the famous Hamman Turkish baths and ended up in the old shopping precinct where Gemeah went a bit nuts buying some Dolce and Gabanna handbags !! The streets were like a maze and only one way so we tried to drive around and find the Turkish baths and literally ended up going around in circles about 5 times. We finally found them and cacked ourselves when we realized that they were only about 100 meters from where the castle was. We were then going to try and drive to Larnaka but ran out of daylight and time. We found a shopping centre on the way and stocked up on some local produce for dinner and alcohol to take back - as even though the exchange rate is so poor for us the alcohol is so cheap here that it is better than duty free.

Day 55 - Friday 3rd February 2006 - Cyprus/Turkish Side
Today we had to wake up very early again to go for a day trip on a bus to Kyrenia which is the capital of North Cyprus which is occupied by the Turkish and is a military zone - we had to get day VISA's to pass into the capital. Nicosia which is the capital of Cyprus's actually divided by what they call the green line which is run by the UN - it has been compared to Berlin in that it is a divided city. The tour was rather disappointing as it consisted of some boring ruined castles, overpriced food and a harbor where the water was filthy - as they just seemed to chuck their rubbish straight into it. On the way out we the bus had to be searched by the border patrol to make sure we were not smuggling in alcohol or cigarettes.

Day 56 - Saturday 4th February 2006 - Cyprus
Vroomm Vrooomm - today was spent getting very mudding honing around on quad bikes. We were the only two on the trip as at this time of year Cyprus is generally filled with older people who are trying to escape the cold in England or Europe and are soaking in the sun playing cards or bingo. So it was great to have the guide all to ourselves which meant that we could do extra riding. We went nuts over the beach, through the farming land, and along the coast line. We visited Aphrodite's birth rock again but this time as we off track on the beach and Cliffside we got to see the coast line in a different view - it was rather amazing. The entire beach lines here are covered in rocks which are smooth and a bit like river pebbles - we wanted to take them all home to landscape and tile with.
We got dropped back to the hotel in the afternoon and Dimitri (the front desk guy at our hotel) managed to get us back into a room (as they made us check out this morning) so that we could have showers to get all the mud off - otherwise we were considering jumping in the pool which would have been a bit chilly as the weather cools down by about 4.00. Off to dinner tonight at a nice Italian restaurant and then the wait at the airport to return to Gatwick. We had a taxi driver who was fascinated with Australia and knew heaps of facts because he had been learning about it on the TV because of the Australian Open. Not looking forward to the 5 hour flight back to Gatwick.

Day 57 - Sunday 5th February 2006 - London
Arrived at Gatwick at 1.30 in the morning. Missed the bus for our hotel as it stopped at 2.15 and had to get a cab. Was supposed to be an airport hotel but it took over 25 minutes to drive there. Had to leave by 12.00 to get back to Gatwick to work out how to get to Heathrow. We ended up catching a bus called the national express. Once at Heathrow we had to hop on a hoppa bus to the Marriot. Aaagghhh the Marriot - the way we like it. !!!!

Day 58 - Monday 6th January 2006 - London
Back to Heathrow again today to catch the flight to Osaka. As we had to check out of the hotel we arrived at 1.00 and found somewhere to eat. We then started to line up at 2.00 so we could get good seats, which worked !!. Flight was supposed to leave at 6.00 but because of a major security alert at the airport half of it was closed. Wayne saw the security alert happening so came and got me so that we could leave for the terminal before the place got shut down. It worked but our plane was still delayed for over an hour as about 10 passengers got caught up in the security alert and could not get to the plane. I hate this flight - about 13 hours!!!

Day 59 - Tuesday 7tht January 2006 - Japan
We had to wait another 6 hours in Osaka airport. Gemeah fell in love with the Shiatsu massaging chair. Our plane was delayed again because all connecting flights from Heathrow were late because of the security scare.

Day 60 - Wednesday 8th January 2006 - Brisbane
Yeah - finally arrived home at 8.00am.
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