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This sign at Gatwick Airport made me giggle. "Passenger Shoe Repatriation Area only". Someone has obviously just discovered how to use a thesaurus.


jess - 18th Nov 2007, 11:11 tags: travel nablopomo nablopomo07 quirky

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(This one is for you Tash :D)

Ok, so I don't really love London's preference for bland. For a country that is supposedly in love with curry, they don't really know the meaning of hot and spicy.

Just try finding a packet of crisps with a strong flavour. At home, Smith's salt+vinegar chips are powerful enough to make your lips purse like a drawstring pouch. Here, sometimes you can't tell if you've accidentally opened a bag of plain crisps instead of salt+vinegar. And don't get me started on the lack of variety of dips. I'm yet to find a flavoursome dip to serve with cheese and crackers to my dinner party guests.

The perfect example of the English preference for the bland is what Andrew and I call the Beige meal. One of the most popular meals at the BBC canteen was a pie with a side of baked beans and hot chips. Brown, orange and yellow. Mix them together and you get beige and boring!

There is an upside to all this banality. I've finally found a country where I can order a Laksa which is mild enough for me to enjoy. Nyonya is another favourite restaurant in Notting Hill. Whenever we dine at Nyonya I order the same dish, the Singapore Laksa. It's a meal that still makes my eyes water, but is one I can finish. It's like Laksa with training wheels. Maybe one day, I'll be able to remove the training wheels and eat Sue's mum's Laksa. (I highly doubt it though.)

jess - 17th Nov 2007, 11:11 tags: london food nablopomo nablopomo07 love_london

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In 2006, I had a year or so of commuting from Erskineville to North Sydney for work. It was a time of transport turmoil in Sydney and catching the train was a nasty experience. Trains were usually delayed and often cancelled. Some mornings the train would arrive at St Peters overflowing with commuters. These problems combined with the infrequency of trains on my line meant that I was often cursing CityRail.

When we first arrived in London, we marvelled at the tube. What a fantastic system! North, East, West, South... getting around was a breeze. London Transport have implemented a smart card system so there is no need to line up and buy tickets. Add money to your card online and then just wave your card over the ticket barrier to enter the station. Trains run frequently. In the beginning we'd giggle at people who ran for trains. Why exert yourself when the next train will be along in under three minutes.

We're now a little more experienced. It's not all sunshine and roses. We've learned to check the London Transport website before leaving the house. We've learned to hate the words "Severe Delays" because it often means a long wait for a congested train. We've learned to hate peak hour and its hot and sweaty, over-crowded trains. We've learned that signal failure is the most common excuse for problems with trains. Although, with experience comes enough knowledge to work the system. We have our ways of dealing with the problem days.

(I think my favourite excuse for problems with the tube is "Lack of available trains". It's like the trains have called in sick or gone on holidays. )

Yes, it's not perfect but we have to keep things in perspective. Even with the worst delays you're usually not waiting more than 15 minutes for a train. Even with a 15 minute wait, the tube comes more often than Cityrail's Erskineville train. Although, sometimes when I look up at the indicator and see that I have a 6 minute wait for the next train, I'll groan and declare "Appalling!". Another sign that I'm used to living here.

jess - 16th Nov 2007, 11:11 tags: london nablopomo nablopomo07 love_london

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Our last day in Campania and we were determined to make the most of it. In the morning we caught the ferry to Capri and in the afternoon we drove along the Amalfi coast.

We only spent a brief hour on a Capri, so I'm not sure we were able to do it justice. From Marina Piccolo (little habour), we caught the funicular to the top of the hill and the town of Capri. We wandered through the town's winding streets for a little while and got thoroughly lost. It's so easy to get turned around after following the twists and turns of narrow alleyways lined with tall buildings. We lost all sense of direction and it was difficult to orientate ourselves.

Capri is an exclusive resort town. Of course, the shopping options on offer are all upmarket boutiques, like Prada and Gucci. I felt underdressed in my t-shirt and cargo shorts. I should have been wearing a floppy hat, aviator sunglasses, kaftan, Capri pants and designer flip-flops.

Did you know that Capri Pants are named after the island of Capri?

My favourite bit of Capri was the colour of the water in the harbour. It was a beautiful, clear azure blue.
Capriblue waterCapri

Amalfi Coast
In the afternoon we drove along the Amalfi coast. We lunched in Praiano, gelatoed in Amalfi and wandered through Positano.

Our drive along the Amalfi coast was definitely the scariest driving we did in Italy. The Amalfi coast road is narrow single carriageway road perched into a cliffside. While you're driving along, you can peer over the barrier to the terrifying drop down the rockface to the sea below. It's much better to ignore this though and concentrate on the view. Not a very hard task as the view is beautiful and very distracting.

You'd think such a risky road would encourage Italian drivers to drive a little slower and safer. Nope, they were still driving like lunatics. This is where we witnessed most often the favourite Italian driving technique of "overtaking on a blind-corner". I'm surprised they didn't attempt the manoeuvre with both hands tied behind the driver's back for an extra level of difficulty.

On the way back to Sorrento, we stopped at Positano. We parked the car at the top of the hill and began the long, winding journey down to the town centre. It's all downhill! It was only half way down that we realised that we would eventually have to walk back up to get the car. When we reached the town centre we were disappointed to find that there is car park at the bottom of the hill. This is our tip and our gift to you. When visiting Positano, park in the car park at the bottom of the hill. (Actually Andrew's gift, as he was the one who volunteered to trudge up the hill to get the car.)

My favourite bit of the Amalfi Coast is the view. Tiny towns built into a cliffside overlooking a blue Mediterranean. My words don't do it justice; I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Andrew taking a photo of the viewPositanoJess and Andrew at Amalfi

More photos on Flickr...

jess - 15th Nov 2007, 11:11 tags: travel nablopomo italy nablopomo07 amalfi tincrane_italy

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Speaking of mini-breaks, we're off to Poland this weekend for a quick holiday. It's definitely a flying visit.

We're only spending two days in Krakow. On day one we're going to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine (my curiosity about this attraction is what prompted our trip). We're also going to pay our respects at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Although we've already been to Dachau (the first camp and the model for all subsequent concentration camps), I feel it's our moral duty to visit Auschwitz. Especially since we're going to be so close. On day two we're going to walk through the old town of Krakow. We fly back to London at 8pm on Sunday evening.

Wondering what to pack, I checked the five-day forecast on BBC weather. I was a bit surprised to find that it's currently snowing in Krakow and snow is also predicted for the weekend. The temperatures are bit on the chilly side with a forecast maximum of 0 degrees. Brrr! I'll have to remember to pack the thermals.

jess - 14th Nov 2007, 11:11 tags: travel nablopomo nablopomo07 poland snow krakow

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