It’s 3 months to go till the celebration of our union, so Julie and I are in France (Haute-Savoie Region) to make preparations.
After sorting out the flowers and wine we will be having on our day, Julie, her mother and I spent the day doing two of the many hikes around this beautiful part of France.
Our first stop was Gorges du Fier, which is located South of beautiful Annecy. The walk is not for the faint hearted and certainly not for those who suffer from Vertigo.
I think I have passed my fear if heights to Julie or I have stopped being a Nu nush as the French would say.
The highest point of the walkway is 24 meters above the ground and the creaky wooden platform makes it a nerve wrecking walk. Julie was scared but she was not scared about falling but more worried about her sun glasses and engagement ring falling into this huge hole.
The walk takes 30 minutes. It’s not a tour so you would have to come back the same way. After the walk we had picnic in the area before the next hike.
We visited a nearby castle that had breathtaking views. I love this part of France (Haute-Savoie) because there is a lot of activities to be done, the weather is perfect. In the summer you have hikes and it’s very hot, during the winter it’s ski, snow boarding or raquette. With God willing, we will move here soon.
Afterwards we then drove an hour to Massif de la Chartreuse where our next hike was. It’s called Cirque de Saint-Meme which is located 900 meters above sea level.
The area is green, the little brook that runs through it is fresh, clean and a great site for families to have picnics.
The hike up wasn’t tasking and once at the top the view of the waterfall is great. The whole trek from start to finish should take 1.30hr but a few stops to take in the scenery is recommended.
I would definitely recommend doing this hike and also visiting this region for a week or two holiday in the summer. There a lots of campsites, great food and scenery to be taken in.
We have finally finished creating our video from the world trip.
We have cramped 23 countries in 11 months into a 4 mins video.
Hope you enjoy it.
Our vacation this year took us to Burma (Myanmar) for 2 weeks.
Play the 3 mins video we have created below to see the highlights of our trip.
Burma is like no other SouthEast Asian country, when you leave the big cities some places are relatively untouched. The people of Burma are the friendliest we have ever met on our travels.
Please visit Burma but try to avoid going on trips that provide funds to the current government.
Our journey began in Mandalay then a 14hr journey on the bumpiest sleeper train ride to Mandalay. A few days were spent in Mandalay visiting Saigang, Amarapura, Mingun & Inwa.
After a few days here we went to the magical old capital called Bagan. Wish we had more time here as life was very hectic with some 3000 temples to see. An horse cart and an electric bike were the choice of transport we preferred.
A 6hr car journey was made to Lake Inle and after a few days here we took a night bus back to Yangon.
It was a brief visit for us but we saw, did, visited, travelled, tasted, heard, smelt so much that it felt like we were on the road again… It felt good. Sometimes, I had to pinch myself and think hard about our life in London with a flat, a job and all that comes with it to make sure we actually came back.
It felt good to go back to a place we knew and loved.
In short Kwasi and i got on a plane at Heathrow on a snowy Sunday morning and changed for another one in Munich. We were flying Lufthansa and actually really enjoyed it. It is one of those airlines that lets you start your movie as soon as you seat down and until you reach your gate on arrival. They have weird food but you get to have a whole bottle of beer if you ask for beer instead of a small glass of horrible coke.
When we arrived in Delhi, it was 7:40 and it took forever to get our bags and some cash. When wegot out of the terminal we saw a small guy holding a sign with my name. We smiled just looking at the blue sky.
We followed our driver to the parking and on our way to the car he was so distracted that he almost got run over by another car. Then we finally found the car he realised that he lost the ticket so he had to pay a fine to be able to leave the airport parking.
So two hours after landing, we were finally on our way to Jaipur.
It is only 266km far away but the roads are so bad that it took us 5 hours to reach Sunder Palace in Jaipur.
Sunder Palace was the place we stayed at during our first visit in 2011 and we decided to come back just for one thing – their tomato curry!
Their food served on the rooftop restaurant is delicious and so cheap that it is worth staying there just for that. And the rooms are cheap too (about £16 for a night) and clean with TV and air conditioning.
So as soon as we arrived we went for lunch on the terrace and got ready to explore the pink city. We decided to go to the bazaars by rickshaw to get some cheap clothes that we could wear for Holi, the Festival of Colours.
After a couple of hours of shopping and wandering the streets of Jaipur we got back to the hotel and went to eat another tomato curry!
There we met Jenn, a American teacher teaching English in Saudi Arabia and on holiday in Jaipur. Kwasi was keen to get people to hang out with for Holi just to make sure we could be a big group. She was a bit weird but still accepted to play Holi with her.
The next day is the Elephant Festival held in Jaipur for many years on the day before Holi. Unfortunately, when we were having breakfast we read the papers and we learnt that animal activists had managed to cancel the event because it was bad for the elephants. Great! We actually came all the way to Jaipur because of the festival….
In the morning we tried to find places where we could see the elephants being prepared but the only way to see it was at Amber Fort, just outside the city where they take fat American tourists up to the fort. Maybe the animal activists should worry about that rather than have them play polo once a year!
So we stayed there for a while looking at the brightly decorated elephants coming up and down the fort.
After that we went back into town to visit the City Palace.
We came to the hotel for lunch and a third tomato curry. For the afternoon we decided to still go to the polo ground to see what the Rajasthan Tourist Office prepared for us. Well, they were contingents of folkloric groups dancing and playing instruments. The fun thing was that our rickshaw driver started to play Holi on the way and we got really excited.
After a very long time, we decided to head into the Pink City again to buy our coloured powders to play Holi tomorrow. At a stall, a kid came to me, said ‘Happy Holi’ and splashed bright pink and purple on my face!
Back at the hotel, Kwasi booked car to Pushkar for the next day. The reason being that he talked to a lady who said that alcohol was banned there so the celebrations will be quieter and more “civilised”.
After a good meal, a good night sleep and a big breakfast we got ready for our trip to Pushkar. We met two Australian girls who decided to come with us to play Holi in Pushkar. So Renee, Rebecca, Kwasi and me waited outside the hotel for the car. There the hotel staff and us started to play Holi by chucking powders onto our faces and eating Indian sweets.
We got in the car and after about 20 minutes the driver realised that he got the wrong clients and we had to go back all the way to the hotel to find out that they actually didn’t order a car for us so we waited a good hour before we could leave Jaipur.
Our driver Zaheer Ali was so funny but so fast too. We screamed may times during the journey. It is a good thing he kept telling us that he is a complete race who has a complete driving licence and complete control of the car. This is why we actually ran out of petrol just 5 km outside of Pushkar! By that point, we were so late that we were not amused at all so we left him to deal with the car, found a hotel, ordered a taxi and finally arrived in Pushkar.
The place was crazy! In a square, there were thousands of purple people dancing to trance music blurting out at 2.00pm.
When we arrived, we got ‘holi’ed a lot by Indians people, pinched here and there and hugged a lot.It was actually not the best feeling in the world. Luckily, an older Indian man told us to go further. At first we were very reluctant but he insisted and he was right. Further down was the place where all the tourists played Holi, it was a lot better and then we started to have some real fun playing Holi with complete strangers. It was the best time we’ve had in a while. Can you believe that you can actually get dirty for fun and not worry about washing afterwards. I have dreamt about this almost all my life. After dancing, playing, eating and sniffing colours, the music stopped and everybody went back to what they were doing.
We decided to have a look at the sacred lake of Pushkar and it was great. We spent about half on hour on the ghats looking at the locals trying to wash the purple dye away.
When we were leaving, Ali found us and apologised about the petrol. We actually had to apologise for the state we were in…
The next day was a lot quieter, we got a car to take us to Shekhawati, a place in the desert of Rajasthan were rich merchants built impressive havelis (huge houses). This time our driver was so slow and careful that it took forever to get there.
We drove first to Nawalgarh were we visited two havelis: Podar Haveli and Baghton Ki Choti Haveli.
One turned into a museum and completely renovated and the other one on the brink of collapse.
We also had lunch in Nawalgarh where we stopped at the Shekhawati Guest House, which our driver didn’t like at all – he insisted that we ate on the side of the highway… We were the only guests in this airy bungalow in a leafy garden and the lady cooked us the freshest dahl with chapatis and rice. Sorry Mr Jefferson but we don’t regret it, it was delicious!
Our second and last stop (our driver was so slow that’s all we could see) was Mandawa, a great little town with fabulous havelis. There we visited several: the Naveti Haveli turned into a bank, the Nand Lal Murmuria and the Goenka double Haveli. The nice thing when you visit them is that they have a chowdikar (caretaker-cum-guard) will show you around and give you explanations (for a small fee obviously)
We got back to Jaipur late a night and had our last tomato curry as we were leaving for Delhi the next day.
We got tickets for the 6:00 train and had to take a rickshaw at 5.30 to get there on time. It was so weird to be back in Indian railway stations with our bags so early in the morning.
We were luck enough to have tickets for a nice train with A/C. Renee and Rebecca were on the same train so we decided to share a taxi to New Delhi once we got there.
All four of us went to the Tourist Office at New Delhi station to get tickets to Agra for the Sunday. We couldn’t resist, the Taj Mahal was so close, we had to see it again.
After we got our tickets, we went separate ways them to their hotel in Paharganj and us to our hotel in Connaught Place. We splurged and got a room at the Radisson (really cheap here). After settling in, showering and changing to clean clothes, we waited for the rain to go away to start exploring.
Our first stop was Old Delhi and the Jama Masjid. We arrived too late during our first visit and never got to actually visit it. This time, we saw it and went into it. I had to wear something on top of my clothes – not sure why I was wearing trousers and a long sleeve top…
After this, we went straight to a local favourite: Karim. It is a great mughal restaurant hidden in a passage down a side street. There are four dining rooms all scattered around the open air kitchen. we got butter chicken, mutton stew and the best naans we’ve ever had. It was delicious food. We really recommend to anyone visiting Old Delhi.
After lunch, we got a cycle rickshaw to take us to the spice market through the tiniest streets. It was a great experience if comfortable! The spice market was incredible, packed with vehicles, animals, humans, smelly bags of spices, dried fruits and tea.
After that experience, we got back to the hotel to relax a bit and ordered room service just to enjoy not going out. Well, very bad idea – this is the only food that got me a Delhi belly!
The next day was very busy – we visited all the sites we didn’t do on our first visit: Qtub Minar and the complex, Safdarjang Tomb, Humayun’s Tomb and finally the Lotus temple. We had lunch at the Dilli Haat, a tourist market with food stalls. We actually ordered Nepalese food: some momos and fried rice.
For dinner, we went to Kake Da Hotel in Connaught Place and it was the same cuisine as Karim. The place is really horrible, service really poor, tables and cutler sticky but once again the food was amazing. Another recommendation guys.
On our last day, we got a rickshaw to take us to Nizamuddin station where we met Renee and Rebecca for our trip to Agra. After ” hours, we got there and got a car for the day to take us around Agra and its monuments. We were luck to order one without A/C so we had one of these old Padminis.
Our first was the Taj.
We got to the Western gate and had no aueue at the ticket office or at the entrance, amazing. It was a different story inside, there must have been millions walking down the fountains and around the mausoleum. This doesn’t affect the sight though. It is still one of the best things I have seen in my life – way better that Cristo Redentor in Rio!
After two hours, we went for lunch in Taj Ganj before getting the car to take on the other side of the Yamuna river to take unobstructed photos of the Taj Mahal. You can go to a garden and pay or you can walk to the river which is what we did. If you can’t afford the 750 rupees to visit the Taj Mahal, we recommend this option.
From there our driver took us to the Baby Taj, or Itimad-ud-Daulah. Much smaller and less famous, it is called the baby Taj, because it is also made of Marble. The better thing here though is that the decorations and inlay work is amazing.
After that it was time to take the girls back to the station for their train. As for Kwasi and me we went to see the sunset on the Taj Mahal on a rooftop on Taj Ganj. It was beautiful and sad because it was our last night in this amazing place.
We left our hotel the next morning at 5.00, got the cheap and efficient Airport Express and took off two hours later…
We met Julies brother Vincent at Duncker Strasse near Eberswalder Strasse metro station at a brunch place called Suicide Sue. Vincent is her studying and living with a German family.
Apparently brunch is a big thing in Berlin so most cafes were very busy. The three of us went to a flea market 10 mins walk away, it seems quite popular. Not my kind thing but good to do it.
At 1pm we met the guide for Alternative Berlin Tour at the Telecoms tower. Everytime Julie and I visit a big city, we do a free tour and then after 3hrs of walking we tip the guide. The guide took us on a graffiti tour, similar to the ones we’ve done in Valparaiso (Chile) and London. The tour took us to Mitte, Kottbusser Tor (Kreuzberg)and finished at the East Side gallery where there is a long wall still standing.
The tour wasn’t that great, disappointing actually. The East Side Gallery made up for it though, a 1.3 km standing stretch of the Berlin wall.We enjoyed a Curry Wurst before admiring all the murals painted on the wall. From her we dropped Vincent at Alexanderplatz and then we went back into hotel.
After dinner at the restaurant downstairs where we also drank Berliner Weisse which can be had in red or green. Its delicious.
Took the bus to see the Brandenburg gate at night and then we returned back to hotel. An early flight tomorrow, I go to work whilst Julie has a half day.
Aujourd’hui, on a rendez-vous avec Vincent qui est en famille d’accueil pour améliorer son allemand.
On a rendez-vous dans le quartier bobo pour bruncher. Une activité dominicale que beaucoup d’allemands pratiquent.
On se retrouve au café Suicide Sue qui malgré le nom est un super endroit, bien mignon et surtout qui sert de bons plats.
Pleins de pain, chocolat chaud, jus d’oranges pressées, pancakes etc… On décide d’aller usité le marche au puce du MauerParl, autre activité du dimanche. On y découvre des centaines de stands vendant de vieux appareils photos, jouets, vinyles, vêtements….
C’est vraiment sympa et on imagine que sans le froid et la neige ça doit être encore mieux.
Après ça, on attrape le métro pour retourner à AlexanderPlatz ou on a rendez-vous avec Alterntive Tours. Kwasi et moi avons fait beaucoup de ces tours gratuits et on a toujours adoré. On en a même fait un récemment a Londres pour découvrir l’art de rue de l’Est de Londres. Le site internet nous promet des graffitis, des squats, des bars, boites et bien d’autres trucs du Berlin underground…
On commença la visite pour prendre le tram jusqu’au quartier de Mitte: milieu. Le guide explique que dès que le mur est tombé, les artistes, punks et bobos de Berlin Ouest ont investis les immeubles abandonnés. On visite une cour remplie de graffitis et autre street art non loin de la, c’était vraiment sympa.
On continue la visite avec plus de graffitis, de squats etc… Et on finit sur un pont tout juste à côté de la East Side Gallery. Une portion de mur couverte de dessins et très bien conservée. C’est la qu’on essaie la fameuse currywurst. À trois on dévore le plat de saucisse au ketchup et curry avec des frites en moins d’une minute.
On continue la visite de la East Gallery et on prend plusieurs photos des portions de murs, certains ont vraiment de super illustrations.
Ensuite, on attrape le train à la Ostbahnhof et on rentre à AlexanderPlatz. C’est la que Vincent prend le train pour retourner dans sa famille d’accueil et nous on rentre se réchauffer dans notre chambre d’hôtel.
À 18h, on va au bar, on commande une Berliner Weisse, une bière blanche es peu fermentée et plutôt sans goût alors ils la servent avec soit du sirop rouge ou du sirop vert. J’ai commande avec du sirop rouge et c’est un peu comme un Monaco, plutôt bon.
On décide de dîner aussi et je commande une flammkuche, j’adore ça! Kwasi, lui, se contente d’un Burger.
Ensuite on quitte l’hôtel car on veut voir certains monuments de nuit. On attrape donc le bus 100 et on se rend jusqu’au Reichstag. Ensuite on marche jusqu’à la porte de Brandenburg et on prend les mêmes photos que la veille mais cette fois de nuit.
On reprend le bus dans l’autre sens et on de retour à l’hôtel avant 20h!
On ne se couche pas trop tard car demain on doit se lever à 4h45, notre avion décolle a 7h!
It’s full steam ahead today. Julie and I got bus 100 from Alexanderplatz towards Brandenburg Gate. The weather was miserable, cold and windy but it didn’t dampen our spirits because in front of us was this historical monument, the most famous landmark in Berlin – Brandenburg Gate.
This gate is like those arches around the world like Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Marble Arch in London and Independence Arch in Accra. It used to be in no-mans land when the wall was standing. It is said Napoleon marched under this and took home the horses at the top of the gate but it was returned a few years later.
From here we stopped at Starbucks for breakfast and then went to Reichstag for our 10am appointment. Ensure you have reserved your place online for the day otherwise they won’t let you in. Also bring some sort of identification with you because I didn’t and almost was not let in.
The Reichsatag (German Parliament) didn’t disappoint, the dome designed by Sir Norman foster is beautiful, I wonder if he got his inspiration from Hugh Hefner’s bedroom because its full of mirrors and the reflections are crazy. Its a dome but a funnel like mirrored sculpture in the middle. We walked inside the stairs hugging the inside of the dome and reached the top. On a clear day you can see afar but today wasn’t one of them.
From the Reichstag we walked over to the Holocaust Memorial to Murdered Jews of Europe, this area the size of 3 football pitches has 2711 dark grey cement blocks of different size. We took photos and then walked over Check Point Charlie which was an allied military post marked the border between East and West Berlin.
Over here you can see some of the Berlin Wall now painted with the faces of modern dictators dead and alive. The Judisches Museum Berlin is a great building and it cost 5Euros to get in and it’s great. Inside this amazingly weird architectural building are stories of German Jewry. Definitely worth the visit.
We had lunch at Vapiano and then went to Sony Center where the Berlin Film festival was being held and we had Moet champagne. Its a been a long day so we walked back to Reichstag and got the bus 100 to where the zoo was and then back all the way to the hotel.
In the evening I wasn’t feeling too well so we stayed in our hotel, had burger at the bottom of our hotel, had beer in the bar and then went to bed. I like Berlin, seems a great city but very white not cosmopolitan.
On a réservé pour visiter la coupole du Reichstag a 10h donc on se lève tôt pour voir quelques choses avant.
À 8h30, on quitte l’hôtel et on prend le bus 100 pour aller jusqu’à la Brandenburg Tor. On a tous vu cette porte dans les livres d’histoires et elle est vraiment impressionnante en vrai.
Après quelques photos on prend un petit déjeuner au Starbucks du coin avant de se rendre au Reichstag pour notre rendez-vous.
Comme prévu on présente l’émail de réservation pour pouvoir rentrer mais quand on nous demande notre passeport c’est pas la même histoire. On les a laissé tranquille à l’hôtel!
J’ai mon permis sur mois mais Kwasi lui n’a rien et il faut négocier pas mal avec la sécurité pour qu’il puisse rentrer.
Un conseil, gaze votre passeport toujours sur vous si vous visitez Berlin!
Une fois à l’intérieur on prend une ascenseur pour se rendre sur le toit et rentrer dans le dôme de ferrer imagine par Sir Norman Foster, architecte du cornichon et toit du British muséum à Londres.
La structure est super impressionnante et avec la neige on n’arrive pas trop à profiter de la vue panoramique. C’était quand même une super visite. La tour de miroirs située au centre rend l’endroit spectaculaire.
En traversant les rues, on s’aperçoit que c’ertains des feux tricolores ont un petit bonhomme spécial pour dire de traverser ou de ‘s’arrêter AmpelMann, c’est une signe distinctif de Berlin Est et on peut acheter des souvenirs en tout genre à son effigie.
Ensuite, on traverse une coin du Tiergarten pour aller jusqu’à Mémorial de l’Holocauste. Un très grand endroit avec un sol pas droit et couvert 2711 blocs en béton de toutes tailles.
De la on marche jusqu’à fameux CheckPoint Charlie. Et c’est la qu’on aperçoit nos premiers morceaux de mur.
CheckPoint Charlie c’était un poste frontière entre le territoire de forces alliées et celui des russes, entre Berlin Est et Berlin Ouest.
Une fois les photos de touristes prises, on marche jusqu’au musée Juif, gros bâtiment métallique dessine par Daniel Libeskind. On décide de payer les 5 euros pour en faire la visite. C’est vraiment intéressant d’en apprendre un peu plus sur le sort de ces millions de juifs.
On ressort du musée bien après 13h et se met en route pour Postdam Platz. La on déjeune à Vapiano (Delphine, Marie et Maman vous savez eu en ce que c’est) et on continue la visite par le Sony Centre.
Il y a une ambiance de folie car c’est la Berlinale et pleins de films sont en compétition. On passe par le stand Moet pour profiter d’une coupe de champagne.
Plus loin, on aperçoit le bâtiment de la Philarmonie. O traverse ensuite le Tiergarten pour prendre le bus 100 en direction du zoo cette fois. Sur la route on passe la Siegessäule, colonne de la lvictoire placée ici par Hitler dans son plan de grand Berlin. On aperçoit aussi l’entrée du fameux zoo et on termine non loin de la Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtnichskirche, l’église à moitié détruite par les bombardements. Malheureusement, celle-ci est cache derrière des échafaudages.
On ne s’éternise pas dans le coin et on répondre le bus 100 jusqu’à AlexanderPlatz.
On retourne à l’hôtel et on se réchauffe et repose bien avant de sortir à nouveau pour dîner.
Avant de sortir d’ailleurs, on va boire une bonne bière au bar de l’hôtel.
Après le dîner, nous regardons quelques épisodes de How I Met Your Mother.
Julie worked from home this morning, so we met near my work in West London and went to Heathrow terminal 5 to take our 4pm plane to Berlin.
We’ve heard a lot about this historical and important city but never been, so you can imagine how excited we were.
We arrived in Berlin snow on time and got my passport stamped as part of my collection to get stamps. Bus TXL took us to Alexandraplatz via some of the main sites we are going to see tomorrow. We were supposed to change at Alexandraplatz and get a metro to our hostel but we both didn’t feel like sleeping in a hostel.
Park Inn at Alexandraplatz was the hotel of our choice. They put us into a panoramic room overlooking the city. After dropping our stuff, we walked to Nikolaiviertel to eat. Its an area where one can eat local food. We selected Brauhaus Georgbrau as a place to eat.
I don’t think this neighbourhood see a lot of black people because when I walked in everyone was looking at me. It was strange but homely because that’s how people reacted when we travelled last year. We ate very well. Julie and I had a large pilsner beer, I had sausage and potato for dinner whilst Julie chose a vegetable dish.
The food was good, really enjoyed it even though people say German food is not that good. The walk back to the hotel was cold and we were happy to go back into our nice hotel. Tomorrow is going to be a big day.
J’ai travaillé toute la matinée de la maison et à 12h45, j’ai pris le bus pour aller jusqu’à Finsbury Park pour prendre la Picadilly Line.
Et un peu plus d’une heure plus tard, j’ai retrouvé Kwasi à Acton Town pour aller ensemble à Heathrow.
Arrivés au terminal 5, on patiente en faisant les boutiques pour notre vol pour Berlin.
On n’a pas de retard et on décolle peu après 16h.
Le vol se passe plutôt bien et quand on arrive à Tegel Berlin il neige pas mal. Enfin pas de quoi fermer l’aéroport.
On galère un peu pour trouver le direction des bus car c’est vraiment mal indiqué mais au final on y arrive. €2,40 plus tard, on attend le bus TXL pour Alexanderplatz.
Une fois dans le bus, on décide qu’on ne veut vraiment pas dormir dans l’auberge de jeunesse qu’on a réservé. Dommage, ils vont nous faire payer la première nuit…
Une fois arrivés à Alexanderplatz, on demande au portier d’un centre commercial s’il connaît un hôtel dans le coin. Ils nous prend un peu pour des débiles et nous indique que la grande tour là juste au-dessus c’est un hôtel: le Park Inn.
On réserve pour trois nuits et sans tarder on s’installe dans notre chambre panoramique au 21ème étage.
Peu de temps après, on s’aventure dans le Nikolaiviertel, soit disant le vieux Berlin. On se pose dans une brasserie recommandée dans les guides et je commande un schnitzel végétarien. Avec ces histoires de viande de cheval dans les plats surgelés, je préfère ne pas trop m’aventurer…
Kwasi lui prend la traditionnelle saucisse avec des patates à l’eau. Pas fameuse la cuisine allemande, heureusement qu’ils ont la bière… Ça fait passer le goût.
On aurait bien commandé un apfelstrudel mais les portions sont tellement copieuses qu’on part après nos plats et on rentre bien repus jusqu’à notre hôtel sous la Fernsehturm.