A Travellerspoint blog

July 19 2011 - Sudbury

SUDBURY, SUFFOLK

semi-overcast 18 °C

Sudbury is just a few miles from Cockfield; we often drive through it but had never actually had a good look around

First stop was Sudbury Meadows, a large area of meadows and farmland down along the river Stour. Just near an area called The Croft, there is a disused Edwardian bathing pool - it's in a beautiful location and it's a shame the council hasn't restored it

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From there we walked through to the main street to Gainsborough's House. This is the birthplace-museum of Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), one of the best-known painters in British art. I am not keen on his portraits but really like his landscapes. The house and exhibition is very well presented and the garden (with cafe) is lovely and has a Mulberry Tree dating back to the early 1600s from which I scrumped the sole, ripe mulberry - very tasty

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Posted by kforge 01:55 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

July 13 to 15 2011 - Budapest

BUDAPEST

sunny 35 °C

On Wednesday, we had another outstanding bus trip (3 hours), this time with Eurolines from Vienna to Budapest (19 euros). The bus had even more leg-room than the Student Agency bus but there was no on-board hostess. It arrives at Népliget and you just go down into the nearby metro and buy a single ticket into the city for 320 Hungarian Florints (HUF) or buy a 24-hour pass for 1550 HUF

We checked into the Opera-Garden Hotel & Apartments (thanks for the recommendation Mr Pratley) in the really well-located Hajos Street, watched the Tour de France on TV and then strolled along Andrássy Avenue, an iconic boulevard dating back to 1872, lined with spectacular Neo-renaissance mansions and townhouses and one of Budapest's main shopping streets, with fine cafes, restaurants and theatres

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Wednesday and Thursday were around the 35C mark but it plummeted to 30C on Friday; a dry heat but still very hard work when there is no sea-breeze

Thursday morning we strolled just a few streets to get to St Stephen's Basilica where Ferenc Puskas is buried and then took the number 16 bus across the river and up the hill to the Castle district in Buda which is really the only really tourist-infested place in Budapest; everywhere else seems like a normal, working city and is very pleasant to walk around. It is a nice surpise after Prague and Vienna

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Thursday evening we took the 1896 metro up to the City Park to attend an open-air Liszt Concert by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra in the Vajdahunyad Castle courtyard

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Friday morning before heading off to the airport, we took a short metro ride down to the Danube to have a look at the Chain Bridge and take a stroll along the river bank. The bridge was designed by William Tierney Clark who also designed Marlow and Hammersmith Bridges on the Thames

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We paid a fixed-price of 6,000 HUF ($30) for a taxi to the airport - the shuttle-buses charge $15 for each person and take twice as long. We had what seems to be the standard delay with Easyjet flights and, of course, the usual bun-fight for seats as they continue to refuse to offer allocated seats - Jetstar in Australia tried this for a while and, quite rightly, realised this was a stupid waste of staff and passenger time. The flights are usually pretty good but this seat issue just makes flying a pain in the arse

We were dreading arriving at Gatwick Airport just in time for the Friday M25 rush-hour drive around to Suffolk but for some reason the traffic was really light and there were even no queues at the Dartford Tunnel. Are we really back in the UK?

Posted by kforge 03:08 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

July 10 to 12 2011 - Vienna

VIENNA

sunny 30 °C

I don't have much to say about Vienna

The Kunsthistorisches Museum is a truly amazing collection - 8 Cannalettos, 12 Peter Brueghels (the Elder) including the Tower of Babel and rooms of Tintorettos, Vermeers, Titians, Rubens; you get the picture

The Schonbrunn Palace gardens are worth a visit and you can get into them for free; you won't find that information openly displayed or in the brochures (could it be that they want you to pay the 19 to 39 euros for the house and gardens entry fee) but they have been open to the public since 1780

The 48-hour Vienna ticket for trams and buses is good value for 10 euros. We bought ours at a machine when we arrived at the Praterstern Bus Station - you can pay cash or credit-card. Just validate it once in a "blue box" as you enter the bus or tram

We stayed at the Hotel Capricorno for 2 nights (100 euros per night)- when I booked it, the location looked good; on the Danube Canal at Schwedenplatz. Schwedenplatz is horrible, as is the canal. The only slight pluses are that the hotel is 1 minute from the metro and a 15-minute walk to the Stephansdom. The rooms are good though, even if the public areas are dated. As the Capricorno was fully booked, we had to move to the newly-opened Alma Boutique Hotel for the 3rd night, just around the corner. Now I have an absolute allergy to wash-basins in the bedroom, so when we were shown to a deluxe double with a wash-basin AND a full bath next to the bed, you can imagine my response. The woman on reception swapped us to a superior double (without bath) which would not look out of place in a Hotel Formule (both of these rooms were priced at over 130 euros) - do not use this hotel despite what the reviews say on booking.com

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I thought the Dutch and Prague-ites liked a smoke but the Viennese take it to another level - disgusting place. And the Viennese don't seem to understand the concept of a cold drink. Can't wait to leave tomorrow morning

Posted by kforge 00:40 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

July 7 to 10 2011 - Prague

PRAGUE

sunny 30 °C

Our apartment was in a great part of the Old Town, just a few minutes walk to the Old Square, Charles Bridge, Legii Bridge and the river islands. Apartment Konvikt looks pretty terrible from the outside but certainly our 1-bedroom apartment 22 on the 6th floor (with lift!) was large and comfortable (80 euros per night). We had a Tesco supermarket nearby (Tesco seem to be quite big in the Czech Republic) and the prices are very reasonable or even cheap. By the way, it's usually much cheaper to drink Czech beer rather than soft-drinks

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On Thursday, our first foray into tourist Prague was into the Old Square and it was horrendous. And yes, I know we are part of the problem but surely no-one benefits from such excessive mass tourism. I really hated all of the "famous" sites in Prague but kept quiet as I thought Jeni was enjoying them; it turned out she hated it all too. Old Town Prague and the Castle District are just theme parks. The architecture is pretty average and almost always over-restored - I cannot understand what people see in this place, maybe it's just the pretty lighting on the Charles Bridge and the Castle at night. And while I'm ranting, it's a filthy city. BUT, the people are very friendly and very helpful

On Friday and Saturday, we kept to quieter areas such as the river islands, Paris Street, and Masarykovo Street with it's marvellous Art Nouveau apartment buildings along the river. Museum Kampa on Kampa Island has a great outdoor collection of sculptures that you can walk around for free; we actually enjoyed ourselves

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We left for Vienna on Sunday morning - by a Student Agency bus! There was such a long queue for train tickets on Thursday evening that we decided to book online for the bus; it's half the price of the train and the journey is the same time. We hadn't been on a long bus ride (over 5 hours) for years and it was a real surprise - very comfortable seats, movies, free coffee, air-conditioning (it was 33C) and free wi-fi for just 16 euros per seat; maybe all bus-trips are like this now?

And for something completely different, what a load of bollocks is the film "The Song Remains the Same" with Led Zeppelin. My all-time favourite band and I had never seen it, so I downloaded it from iTunes for the bus-trip. Self-indulgent crap

Posted by kforge 02:38 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

July 4 to 6 2011 - The Hague

THE HAGUE

sunny 24 °C

After the morning in the Van Gogh Museum, we took a train from Amsterdam Central to The Hague Central (10.70 euros). It's just a 50-minute journey and we were soon checking in to the Maison Indochine B&B - this is a really luxurious guest house for 85 euros including breakfast. It's in a really interesting street and very close to tram stops

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Early evening, we met up with Joyce who had spent 6 months in Byron Bay last year as an intern with the Writers Festival. She's now back at university in The Hague and kindly took some time out from her studies to show us around, including the grave of Spinoza

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Tuesday morning we visited the Mauritshaus Museum, the home of "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" by Vermeer and my new personal favourite "The Oyster Eater" by Jan Steen. This is a truly great art gallery and by Dutch standards, a bargain at 10.50 euros

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At lunchtime we met up with Mariella, a friend of Jeni's who had been in Byron recently on yoga courses. After lunch, it was back to the Mauritshaus for a few final rooms and then a trip down to the beach by tram with Joyce (Scheveningen Beach is only 15 minutes away), a look at the Peace Palace and evening drinks and a meal at the pleasant Prins Hendrik Square just a couple of minutes from the B&B

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The Hague is a really nice city. We both liked it a lot. One small problem is that although there are well-priced tram passes (6.80 for 24 hours), there is only the 24-hour card and we could only find 2 places that sold it - the Central Station and the HTM Shop in Wagenstraat. If you know how many days you will need to use trams, you can buy more than one card and each of these must be validated by the tram driver the first time you use the ticket each day

On Wednesday morning we decided to spend a couple of hours in Delft, just 25 minutes away on the tram. To be honest, if you've seen Amsterdam then there is no real reason to go to Delft unless you really like blue plates. One interesting site was the Oude Kerk which leans about 2 metres like a bloody enormous Leaning Tower of Pisa

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It was then back to The Hague for a late lunch meeting in the Haagse Lente cafe where we had the best falafel in years - a must for vegetarian travellers. Alvin and Chequita at the B&B had kindly let us leave our bags with them after check-out and on picking them up they asked us in for tea and a chat - a very nice couple

The direct and fast train from Den Haag Centraal to Schiphol Airport runs every half-hour (7.90 euros) got us there a couple of hours before our Easyjet flight to Prague but unfortunately a technical problem had us sitting in the plane for an hour and a half before take-off. The pilot was able to make up half an hour so we arrived at 10:30pm, walked straight through the airport with no passport checks and jumped into our waiting shuttle/taxi for a hair-raising 120 kph joyride (but safe) to our Konvikt Apartment in the old city

Posted by kforge 01:37 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

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