Brrr!

The past several days have been spent in a winter wonderland. For those of you who don’t know, some friends and I have been working our way through the alphabet of places to spend Hogmanay and New Year. This year was the 10th installment so we spent a few days down in Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders. Our base was the fabulously equipped Bairnkine Cottages a few miles outside Jedburgh where we were made to feel very welcome.

We saw the Bells in at a wonderful ceilidh in the Town Hall and then somehow made our way back through the snow to the cottages. The next couple of days were spent relaxing, building snowmen and igloos, and ferrying goods from our abandoned vehicles at the bottom of a hill, near the main road.

After a steady drive back up to Edinburgh on the Saturday we were a little taken aback to see the mostly city clear of snow – which we’d kind of gotten used to. It turns out that we needn’t have been too upset though: a further several inches fell overnight and covered the city once more.

It has been quite rare in recent history for Edinburgh to have snow laying for any length of time and as such I noticed a few things. Not being able to rely on the council, people will seemingly clear the pavements only to the edge of their property line and not one centimeter further. Messages in the snow are commonplace – usually obscene ones left on car windscreens but I did notice one helpful message informing the car owner that they had left their lights on. On a grander scale I witnessed a guy shoveling a Spanish message in the snow (with his scarf for the tilde in ñ) for his friend to photograph from their fourth-floor flat for use on a CD sleeve.

Pride of place has to go to this though. It was nice to see a little imagination and something a bit different on Rothesay Place: a snow Sphinx and mini-pyramid!

There and back again

So that’s that over and done with. I traveled westwards by train, plane and automobile for over 31,000 miles until I got back to where I started out from a few months ago. I beat Phileas Fogg by a few days. I’ve eaten subs, grinders and hoagies. I’ve renewed friendships and forged some new ones. I’ve experimented with facial hair, driven for the first time in a decade, jumped from a really high building, rolled down a steep hill in a ball, fell out of a perfectly fine airplane, shaved my head, met my baby niece and just about melted my credit card to boot.

Continue reading There and back again

Going underground

Today I purchased a day ticket for the Tokyo Metro and set off exploring, armed only with my iPhone subway map. I started off in the Sony Building, mainly slobbering over the 70″ Bravia (a snip at ¥4 million) and the stunningly slim XEL-1 OLED unit. After that I had a shoe shine outside Yūrakuchō station before jumping back on the tube and heading towards Tokyo.

Continue reading Going underground

The Great Ocean Road

If anybody were to ask me what the “must do” of Melbourne is then I’d have to say that you need to actually get out of Melbourne. The Neighbours tour is amusing enough but I would have to suggest a Great Ocean Road tour.

I went on one yesterday. It was a long day, setting off at 0730 and getting back to the city a little after 2100. We took in Geelong, Torquay and Bells Beach (as referenced in Point Break – the actual beach was in Oregon) before heading along to Split Point lighthouse (as seen in Mad Max and Round The Twist).

Having driven down the west coast of America it was a great pleasure to have someone else do the driving and consequently feel free to enjoy the views without worrying about crashing the car. We were so much closer to the water and maybe because of this the waves were on a far more impressive scale. The waves fell almost as if they were in slow motion. The water wasn’t exactly clear due to the recent rainfall.

However, the waves on the surf coast paled in comparison to those on the shipwreck coast. It was an extremely windy day which whipped up the ocean. The waves were honestly the biggest waves I’ve seen outside of a Laird Hamilton film and they crashed over the 100 foot cliffs.

We stopped at Mait’s Rest Rainforest and Kennett River to see some wild koalas and hand-feed King Parrots and Rosellas. Some kangaroos were also grazing in the nearby fields but there was still no hopping action.

The highlight of the day was taking a short helicopter flight over and around the 12 Apostles. After this, we made short stops at Loch Ard Gorge and London Arch before driving back to Melbourne.

Walkabout

Now I’ve recovered after being taken around the Kings Cross area for my cousins birthday, I headed into the City and walked from Darling Harbour up to The Rocks, Circular Quay and around the Botanical Gardens. I remember a rumour that one of the guides on the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb was Kristian Schmidt (you’ll know him better as Todd Landers from Neighbours). I didn’t particularly want to blow a couple of hundred dollars to find out so I hopped on a bus to Bondi. I opted for the 333 limited stop service (AUS $4) instead of the Bondi Explorer (AUS $39). I’m not sure exactly why the regular bus was so much cheaper. It may have been a little slower but I was still walking on the beach 30 minutes later.

I carried on my walk along the coastal path down to Coogee. I arrived in time for the reply of last nights game between Spain and Italy and by luck walked into the Coogee Bay Hotel Sports Bar which is home to the two largest plasma televisions in Australia (103″ Panasonic TH-103PF9UK).

I fancied Spain before the tournament got underway so I’m glad they’re through. Who knows, the “Spain never wins a major trophy” hoodoo just may be over.