Luke's Blog

Monday, May 14, 2007

Portugal, Southern Spain, South West England, Belfast

im still rocking up the travel miles, now that i have a motorbike i can see Europe a different way. this was taken on a ride to southampton about 75miles from london.

During the easter break i travelled to Portugal with Kirsten. We visited the monuments, checked out the capital, Lisbon

drank some fantastic wine and port and saw a 'fado' performance which is sort of like an opera performed in a restaurant

at the end of April, Lucy and I travelled to Southern Spain for a week. We had a hire car the the duration and rocked up 850k's. The roads in the city centres of spain are insanely narrow and complicated and without Dan's GPS navigation we would still be there. We visited the big cities of Granada, Cordoba and Seville, as well as some smaller rural and coastal towns.

this is the little town near cordoba where we spent a night.

we visited Seville when they had a massive festival where everyone dresses up (women wear their flamenco dresses) and parade the streets in horse drawn carriages.

for about 400 years, muslims ruled in southern spain (until about 1400). some of the palaces we saw were beautiful. this is a timber carved ceiling in the palace in spain, the craftsmanship is impressive

we spent two nights at a little seaside town near Cadiz and spent one day lying on the beach. i have never been so burnt in my life.

the view from the top of the rock in Gilbraltor was amazing, you can see Africa from here.

the famous monkeys in Gilbraltor, they try and snatch any plastic bags they see from tourists (looking for sweets)

For the may day long weekend, michael and i headed off on a 850k 2-day bike ride to the south west of England. sticking mostly to regional roads along the coastline, we passed through the counties dorset, devon, cornwall and exmoor. we stayed overnight in a town near plymouth.

on the way we visited a famous little 13th century village in devon called clovelly and had a traditional ale sitting on an old stone jetty.

last weekend i flew to Belfast for the weekend to visit my relatives for the first time. belfast is a lot more modern than i thought with new buildings going up everywhere. it was quite an experience coming out of the airport and meeting all these strangers. i remember thinking, ok which ones are related to me (though my grandfather brother and sister were quite obvious). i stayed with my cousin Neil who was my tour guide for the weekend.

on the sat we went on a open top bus tour through the city. this is one of the famous murals in the heart of where all the troubles occurred.

hopefully i'll be heading back there in August for a week and Neil and I will travel all around the island

so thats what i've been up to the last few weeks. i'm starting to feel a bit exhausted from all this travel and will be slowing down a bit in june/july. i'll be spending the next long-weekend in Paris with Lucy (she soesn't know that) and Pamploma in July for running with the bulls. but there's no rest for the wicked as in august i hope to go to Ireland and then at the end of the month the big bike trip through Europe begins.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Chamonix & Dusseldorf/Colonge

Hi all,
The past few weeks have been a pretty cool time. At the start of march I went on another ski trip with work people (20 of us) for 5 days. It was back at Chamonix again so I got to revisit the area with a lot more snow this time. The weather was actually a bit too warm and it rained a lot crating a lot of avalanches in the area. I went out skiing every day but the third day was definitely the best. That day the weather cleared and the sun was out, most runs were open and covered with fresh snow. It was definitely the best day of skiing in my life.

The final ruin I did that day had a vertical height differfence of about 1500m! The greatest in Australia is just over 600m.
A few of us have always been talking about travelling around Europe by motorbike which was why I got my bike licence just before leaving Aus. 2 weeks ago I bought one! it’s a big sports-tourer which means it’s a bit sporty but is comfortable to ride for long periods.

The model is a 2001 Suzuki bandit 1200S which is known as a very reliable bike with plenty of grunt. I have taken it out a few times with one long ride on a Sunday and it was awesome. Michael bought his the same time as mine (yelloe one behind) and now Dan has just got his. The bike itself was pretty cheap (£2200) but the gear (£700) and insurance (£765) were not. Ultimately, in September we plan to tour for a month through western Europe, staying at campsites mostly and will make sure we’re in Munich for the Oktoberfest before heading home. Can’t wait!
Two weekends ags was spent in Dusseldorf Germany, another cheap Ryan air flight. There was supposed to be four of us but dan forgot to take his passport to work on Friday and didn’t realize until it was too late. So Kirsten, Michael and myself arrived late on Friday. We had a hire car for the duration and on sat we drove to cologne (only 30 mins) to check out the tallest cathedral in the world.

It took 600 years to build and magnificent to look at up close, particularly inside.

We climbed one of the towers for €2 and proceeded up the 580 odd steps. The view was pretty good though the visibility was not.

That night back in dusseldorf after a meal of pig knuckles we began a pub crawl at about 430 and finished up after midnight. We muct have drank at about 8 drinking halls/pubs/clubs sampling each places’ own brew of beer or local spirit (the beer halls sold only one type of beer and water). Opposite to munich, the drinking glasses are only 250ml (compared to a litre) and most of the beers were great and relatively cheap. As the wather was pretty crap on Sunday, we didn’t do much (we were gonna go on a cruise on the Rhein river) and arrived in London very late and very tired.
Trips Coming up include:
Portugal over Easter with Kirsten
A weekend in Belfast to visit my Irish relatives (just me)
Nine days in southern Spain, morocco and Gibraltar with Lucy
A long weekend bike trip to the Isle of Man
And about 10 of us have just booked Pamplona in July for the running with the bulls!

Monday, February 12, 2007


two weekends ago, michael, kirsten, dan and myself went to oslo for the weekend. this was our first 'ryanair' experience. ive heard many terrible stories about this infamous airline. they're notorious for overbooking and can cancel a flight at any-time. worst of all you dont get a refund, its tough luck. anyway, our flight went fine, the seats are uncomfortable but its only a 2hr flight. no complaints for a £37 flight (each way) so we left friday after work and arrived at 11pm in oslo. actually the airport is 2hrs from the city (like most 'ryanair' destinations). we had a hire car and drove into town. our accommodation was great for the price, a best-western hotel (£33 each for both nights with a full breakfast).

the weather for the whole trip was perfect, a crisp 4deg and no wind, nice and fresh with clear skies. the sunsets were amazing.

on sat, we decided to drive around the country, so we popped into a few towns, wandered around, popped into sweden for lunch and just generally checked out the countryside.

that night, kisten and i were hell bent on eating local cuisine and we ended up at this very smish restaurant where we ate cod's tongues for entree (they must have been bloody big fish) and rudolph... sorry i mean reindeer for main. both dishes were pretty good, the novelty factor was helping.

sunday we checked out oslo itself. its a beautiful harbour city which was actually partially frozen over.

they have a massive ski jump thing (they hosted the winter olympics in 1952).

we went to a viking museum where they had boats that were built in 900AD.

and checked out their royal palace.

this photo is outside the palace looking down to the city centre

all up it was a pretty cool weekend, nothing really blew me away but it was just cool to wander around another country. next up is a work ski trip to chamonix for 4 days at the start of March. since i left aus almost 1 year ago i have been to 17 countries, france, germany, austria, switzerland and scotland more than once. the time has flown by but living in brisbane seems so long ago.

bye for now!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The last few months

Well finally i have got off my butt and made this post. A big hello to all the guys at KN, hope all is well. So after an unusually warm couple of months, winter has finally arrived here. it snowed 2 days ago and more is set to come. this the famous 'ghetto stonehenge' out the front of my place

a few months ago i went to see hampton court palace. henry the 8th was the first monarch to live there and was used for many generations after. the place was the best palace/chuch/monument tour i have done. highlights was learning how they cooked and ate during the tudor times as well as the amazing gardens.

i spent christmas with 16 other aussies in a french chalet in chamonix where we went skiing for a week and then spent new years in edinburgh for the hogmany festival. the trip turned into a mini disaster. our flight to geneva (chamonix is an hour from there by car) was cancelled due to the massive fog that engulfed the country for a week. i was with dan and kirsten and the others were already there. as the fog was set to continue we decided to drive there that night with only 2 hours sleep. so we hired a cab for the 150km trip to dover (which cost AUS$550!) caught the ferry to france, hired a car (min hire time was 7 days) and drove 850km to geneva. that was a massive effort and cost a fortune. but we made it. unfortunately the ski conditions were pretty ordinary but we still had fun.

we almost missed the plane trip to edinburgh (made it with 5 mins). in edinburgh the weather turned shit and 80km/h hour winds arrived and so the WHOLE new years eve festival was cancelled and we spent the night cooped up in our apartment drinking away. we did look around the town though and climed a nearby hill called 'Arthurs Seat' which had amazing views of the city. then to top the trip off our flight home was cancelled!

about 2 weeks ago a few of us spent the weekend in amsterdam. we followed the saying 'when in rome do as romans do' and had a blast. best window shopping ever. on the saturday we hired bikes and rode close to 30km around the countryside surrounding amsterdam. heading home in 40km/h head winds was a mission. i aslo did a walking tour through the town and learnet the history of the infamous little city. it is a very pretty place, especially around the canals

as mentioned in the previous little post, i went to my cousins wedding last weekend. it was my first wedding as an adult and i had a great time. Charmaine looked amazing and the night went well. this pic is with my cousin ashley, my great-uncle (the father of the bride) and me.

so thats the highlights of my past few months in Europe. next weekend im off to Oslo. in march im going back to chamonix for 4 days with a work ski trip and also to dusseldorf in germany for a weekend. i plan to go somewhere during the easter week in april and then travel somewhere for a week by train (maybe italy or spain) in the last week of that month. so i have a lot to look forward to.

im still loving it over here and coping with the winter better than i thought. the days are starting to slowly get longer and im looking forward to the summertime. work is great and im working on some really cool jobs including a £50 million 5 star hotel in southampton. this is it here

bye for now

Monday, January 22, 2007

Quick Wedding pic

hi all,

yes i know i have been terrible with the updates but i promise to post a massive one that covers the last few months. they have been seeing and doing heaps and another couple of trips coming up in the next few weeks. in summary, i have been to hampton court palace, kent, christmas in chamonix, new years in edingburgh, amsterdam a few weeks ago and last weekend my cousins wedding in kent.

in the meantime before the big post, to keep the family happy for the moment, here is a photo of the bride and father and another of the bride and groom

bye for now

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

draft... Switzerland with the Folkes

So my parents arrived from Australia for a 3 week holiday. They will be visiting London (obviously), Switzerland, Rome, Florence (day trip) and Paris. I joined them for the Switzerland leg of their travels (6 nights).

We flew into Geneva and caught the train to Interlaken where we would stay for the first 4 nights. As you would expect, the scenery in switzerland is amazing, particularly away from the big cities and in the middle, mountainous part of the country. The town of Interlaken is located between two lakes (hence the name) and is full of tourist shops (mostly watches and expensive restaurants).

The day after arriving we caught the train to Lucern to vist Mt Pilates. We boarded a ferry and cruised along the lake and was dropped off at a train station. This train took us all the way up to the top of the mountain (2300m) and is apparently the steepest rail in the world (48% gradient). The train is driven through a big cog wheel in the middle of it which slots into a grooved middle rail. this allows it to travel up steep inclines (normal trains would slide down the mountain). The view at the top was pretty good, though there was a bit of fog around Lucerne whah made things a bit hazy. There was no snow at the top and it was a lot warmer than expected, i wore a long sleeve shirt and didn't need my jacket.

The next mountain on our list was Jungfrau, the top of Europe. This also had a cog railway to get to the top, though the last few k's were through the mountain via a tunnel dug completed in 1912 taking 16 years. The whole complex is built inside the mountain and it was bloody cold inside. At a height of over 3900m we were well above the snow line, with amazing views of glaciers and snow covered mountains. I went for a little trek through the snow to check out another chalet/hotel/restaurant building off in the distance. After 45 mins of walking up what was practically all uphill, I reached it totally exhausted. By the end I only had a t-shirt on in minus 7 temp (the sun was quite hot though). The walk was worth it, I took some awesome snaps of the scenery which could only be seen from here.

Third mountain was the 'James Bond Mountain'. the 1967 film 'on her majesty's secret service' was filmed there. The lookout is at an altitude of about 3200m and it has the world's first rotating restaurant. It took 3 cable car lifts to reach it. Again the views were amazing, and it was a lovely clear day. Over the edge of the mountain about 100m below us we could see an eagle circling around riding the updraft and slowly rising up toward us and then above us. That was pretty cool to watch. The restaurant was actually pretty good and not too exe. Mum and Garry shared this huge Ice cream desert that was loaded with fruit and about 8 scoops of different flavoured (and tasty) ice cream. After lunch, I decided to walk from the top lookout down to the next cable car station below. The sign said it would take about 45 mins - no prob. The parts of the path that we could see all seemed pretty easy, all exposed rock. So off I went on my merry way until I stopped about 1km into it and about 200m lower in altitude than from where I started. In front of me the path was quite steep, curving around a mountain side and it was totally iced over (as it was in the shade). I watched some rather distressed locals coming the other way hanging on for dear life as they pulled themselves around and up the slippery path. I wouldn’t say you’d die if you went over the edge, but it would’ve been a very painful slide down a rock covered hill. So I pondered for about 20mins trying different routes to get past and not making much progress. Turning back meant a bloody exhausting climb. Eventually, to my luck, some experienced locals came along and showed me how to attack it. Fortunately I was wearing propper trekking shoes on with suitable soles or I would’ve had to turn back. The rest of the path was comparatively easy and I chatted with my new friends

For our last 2 days we stayed in the town of Zermatt. it’s a pretty nice looking town but nothing exceptional apart from no cars are allowed on the roads, only electric buggy things. The town is about 1600m above sea level, so it was a bit chilly at night. From here here caught a big cable Gondola up to our final mountain, the Matterhorn. On the way to the gondola (which was at the edge of the town), I saw some tourists posing for a photo holding a Toblerone bar which I thought was rather odd until I looked and saw the mountain in the background - the Matterhorn is the mountain shown on the chocolate bar!

It quite a lovely and clear day, and Gondola was full of people heading up the mountain. Some were decked out in some serious rock climbing gear, others with skis or snowboard. I discovered later that this region has all year skiing. If I had of known I would have done my best to hit the slopes if only for one day - made me look VERY forward to Christmas. So we had a wander around up the top, again spectacular views. The Matterhorn mountain itself is quite spectacular. Unlike most mountains which are surrounded by each other, it appears to be isolated giving it much more prominence.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


daniel arrived from australia beginning the next aussie wave of immigrants coming to london (kirsten and michael to follow) and soon after we went to croatia with callan for 10 days. im gonna quickly post up some pics and then finish off with more detail later (im heading to switzerland with my folks in 2 days and i dont have much free time)

anyway, basically it was meant to be an easy going relaxed trip and it was for a lot of it was (driving half the country at 1am and constant snoring from the other two excluded)

our first night was in split (a big town on the mainland in the middle of the country) then we began our time on the dalmation coast staying on the islands of hvar (2 nights) and kocula (2 nights) and finishing up with 3 nights in magnificent dubrovnik

my favourite place was hvar, a beautiful island where the town is full of venetian architecture. check out callan's blog for a better description of our trip.

i think this was in korcula?

dan and i hired scooters for the day in hvar and this was the typical scenery, not bad hey

i took this in a bus on our way to dubrovnik. i like it

this was taken from on top of the walls that border the old town area of dubrovnik

a sunset also in dubrovnik
and another shot in dubrovnik, the old town in amazing and you can swim in the crystal clear water

so there you go, a relaxing trip overall, spent way too much money but thats life. it was nice to get some sun before the dreaded london winter.