After getting married in September 2010 we decided to do the opposite of settling down; so we packed up our life, stuffed it in our parent's attic and hit the road for what is essentially an extended honeymoon! We started our trip on 29th December 2010 spending 4 months travelling overland through Europe, Russia and Mongolia to China. After many a train and bus journey we caved-in and flew from Western China to Malaysia, and worked our way north to Thailand and Cambodia. The time came for us to replenish our bank accounts, so we headed to Western Australia for work in July 2011 and lived in Fremantle until February 2012. After a couple of months back home seeing our families and friends, we headed back down-under. This time we headed for New Zealand and we are currently living in Wellington. Our blog started as part of an elaborate wedding present from two of our very good friends. The idea was that on our trip we should blog from every country we visit, detailing the sights, sounds and smells and most importantly, the beer. We have certainly had fun writing it - but moreso, living it!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

London, England & Paris, France (29th Dec 2010 - 4th Jan 2011)

Charlotte with a tasty beer at the Euston Tap.

Liam with cider in traditional Breton cups.

So we are almost 3 weeks in and I am just getting around to blogging, I've been a bit slow of the mark I will admit, but from now on am aiming for weekly updates I promise!

After a hectic few weeks sorting out our every last worldly possession, moving out of the flat and having a lovely Christmas with our families we boarded a train from Chorley at 10.21am Wednesday 29th December 2010, bound for China (with a few stops on the way admittedly) with our ultimate destination being the land of Oz.

We took a brief pit stop in London for the night before catching the Eurostar the following morning. We of course checked out the new Euston Tap pub in one of the old Victorian gatehouses at the front of the station, opened up by the same folk behind the great pub that is the The Tap at Sheffield railway station. It's tiny but very cosy little place, with an excellent selection of beers. Refreshed, we checked into our lodgings for the night before heading off to catch up with Mark and Bekah (the givers of this here blog - see the about us section!) which was great to see them just days before Bekah popped out baby Isaac (Congratulations both of you!). The evening was spent at the Old Brewery in Greenwich, a very nice restaurant run by London brewery Meantime. We had some lovely food (a very nice Angus steak with bone marrow butter (a lot nicer than that sounds!), and creamy potato dumplings (again it might not sound appealing but it was seriously awesome)) and of course some very nice beer. This was Charlotte's birthday present to me, beer-themed of course. Eating in a working brewery (not their main one, just a small scale experimental one) doesn't sound that romantic but check out their website and you can see how lovely it actually is.

The following morning we took an early train to Paris on the Eurostar, which was a pleasant experience as always. I'm not sure why anybody would ever feel the need to fly between London and Paris or Brussels anymore. Upon arrival at Gare du Nord Marina very kindly picked up our bags and said a quick hello before letting us roam free around Paris. We had a nice walk around the river, and all the way up the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomph. We failed at the first hurdle and our first out of country culinary experience was at OK Burger (basically a French Macdonalds), whoops. We had a  wander to get a good view of the Eiffell tower before heading back to Marina's in the very nice suburb of Le Vesinet. Later on we drove with Marina to the airport to pick up Katie and Matt who were also staying at Marina's for new year festivities.

New year's eve saw us hiring bicycles (Paris has a pretty cool pay as you go automatic bike rental scheme), taking in the sights and tackling scary French roundabouts! We also had a nice walk at dusk along a disused railway viaduct through the city which has been turned into a park of sorts, the name of which I forget. In the evening we had a super nice meal at a restaurant in St Germain called La Menage and had a most excellent fillet steak amongst another culinary treats such as Foie Gras and proper French profiterols. We were running close to midnight and took the train to the metro stop at the Arc Du Triumph. Getting out of the station at 5 to midnight was pretty chaotic and it seemed everyone in Paris was lined up down the Champs-Elysees! New year itself probably saw us fighting through the crowd to avoid getting squashed and having enough room to pop the mini bottle of fizz we had brought! All fun and games.

The next day we explored Marina's locality of Le Vesinet and had some awesome and much needed New Years day fodder from the Boulangerie. Making the most of the free suburban rail and metro for new years eve/day we headed into Paris and took a very informative tour of the Latin Quarter. Learnt a lot about how the city grew up, and that university back in the day consisted of sitting in a street amongst on hay bales amongst the sewage while the teacher shouted out of a window, surrounded by hanging criminals as a warning to others. And I thought Sheffield Hallam was rough! ;) Later we had a rather tasty veal dish which I believe is French, made by the fair hand of our host Marina.

On our final day we took in the Louvre and Pompidou galleries. Saw the Mona Lisa, underwhelming to say the least! It is strange when art goes so far beyond hype that no-one can remember if it is any good anymore. Hoards of people trying to get a closer look, a bit like if a minor celebrity was switching on a town's Christmas lights. I think they must partly put the security men in dark suits and earpieces there for effect. Saw some pretty cool stuff from ancient Egypt and Mesoptamia, and some modern art in the Pompidou. Arted out, we headed back to Marina's where we were treated to a 12th night tradition (early as we were leaving the next day). Basically there was a Gallette (a pastry based marzipan or apple pie) with a figurine hidden inside. Pieces are assigned at random (the youngest person goes under the table and decides where the first cut goes and whether each following piece is cut to the left or the right - Marina attempted this but it was a very small table!). Whoever gets the figurine is crowned the king or the queen, and I won! Cue paper crown which didn't fit due to my massive head! Our final evening was spent at a nice little creperie in St Germain. The crepes were delicious and we ate them along with cups of cider in the Breton tradition.

And so, alas, our time in Paris came to an end. We said goodbye to Marina's very hospitable parents and headed into the city. As our train was in the afternoon we walked up to the Sacré-Cœur (with our bags - at least we worked off the crepes!) before heading to the Gare Du Nord and saying goodbye to Katie, Marina and Matt. It was a fun and action packed weekend, thank you guys!

And with that we boarded our fancy first class train (it was cheaper the standard when we booked!), Antwerp bound. More to follow in a couple of days...

Leaving & London


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