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Pucon, Navimag trip

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This is a delayed blog due to lack of internet availability recently - it also means it is quite long... Soz about that!

Wow the scenery on the trip from Mendoza to Santiago – it has to be seen to be believed. What an amazing bus ride. We do not say this lightly as have spent a fair amount of time in buses on this trip – to date approx. 50 hours… and many more to come! But, I digress. Basically, the bus cruises through the mountain range commonly known as the Andes, which of course leads to some amazing sights along the way. I will try to let the pictures do the talking, but I do not think they really do justice to the route.

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It was really hard to narrow down the photos to only a few.... Sorry about that! It really was amazing

Final destination post 24 hours of transit (broken up by a dreamy afternoon at the movies) was a little place known as Pucon. The little mountain resort town is nestled next to both the Lake and Volcano Villarica. The location of course leads to a number of different extreme activities. Being the extreme types, we attempted to do a number of these, with varied results.

Weather is a major factor in what can and can not be completed in Pucon. I think all the other tourists in town (approx 70% of the Pucon population during the Summer) are hanging about waiting for a good day in order to attempt the climb to the volcano summit. Fortuntely there are other things to do to fill in the time.

Hidrospeeding – Anyone heard of this? We frekn loved it and had a blast, lucky to come out the other end alive. The basic idea is to “float” down a river on a MASSIVE flutter board, trying to survive through Grade 2 and 3 rapids. Doesn’t sound too bad right? But what if you are doing it with retards who have never donned a pair of flippers so you consequently end up tangled up in their legs. But this aside, it was awesome and I don't know why they dont have this activity available in NZ – it is an ideal location for this type of fun and games!

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No really goood photos but will try and make a video soon

The following day was D-Day for us. It was the only day we were there which was even close to being acceptable weather wise to attempt the climb! We awoke to rain on the roof which is never a good sign. But we set off at 0600 try anyway! We waited with much anticipation to hear from others already up at the base as to whether it looked good to go – and it was – woohoo!

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Ready to start

We struggled our way up and were settling into a rhythm of sorts when the beautiful Blue sky with pretty good visibility up to the top suddenly (when I say suddenly, I mean within about 2 minutes) clouded over to a visibility of about two metres. The difficult decision of whether to continue or not was made for us by our guides who refused point blank to continue. We were all a bit miffed as the other groups appeared to be continuing on. We could do nothing about it though and started the trudge down. The spirit was a bit low but we were pleased to at least have gotten up over half way – and that we could blame the weather and not our own lack of fitness. Haha. What also helped was the other groups all coming down twenty minutes after us. So no one made it to the top that day!

Even though we only did half of the climb, we certainly appreciated the trip we had arranged to the natural Termas/Hot pools for that night. What a way to wind down.

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Some pretty sweet views on the way up

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We were like lemmings all marching our way up

Canyoning was booked in for the following day but again due to the heavy rainfall we had experienced overnight, the rivers were too high and fast to do it. This lead to a relaxing day at the hostel followed by a walk across someones farmland in an attempt to locate the river. We were well and truly lost, but the sights along the way were gorgeous – even if the rain was still intermittently drizzling.

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Soph found some blackberries along the way which made her VERY happy
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We also got a little wet but was a very pretty walk

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Unfortunately we had to leave this beautiful little town as we had a boat to catch and of course needed to board another bus in order to reach said boat. We waved goodbye to Pucon and have put it up there in one of our faves so far.

Fortunately we were leaving Pucon to board our floating home for four days. We had a wee stop off for one sleep and headed off for a feed at the local pub. It was a MASSIVE pile of meat, potatoes and fried bread on a hot plate between three of us. We were all pretty excited about it and tucked in. It was spectacular – until we realised that a lot of what was on the plate was offal – I actually came close to vomiting in the restaurant. The stuff not offal was amazing though.

The following morning it was time to board the boat heading through the Patagonian fjords. The boat has a capacity of 184 and even though we are in the peak season (tail end of it anyway) we only had 90 of us on board. Perfect number we thought. We were sleeping in bunk beds in the corridor. Sounds far worse than it was and it turns out that for those people who had paid the extra for a bunk room, they would have preferred the corridor as we had more space. Woohoo!

We had a really good group of people on board with us and we met people who made the four days fly by. The people, the scenery and the activities they had planned for us made what could have been a little boring, a really good time. There was bingo (which Hayley won), knot tying lessons, lectures on flora and fauna, karaoke, a visit to a heritage village, whale, dolphin and seal watching along with a bit of a detour via a glacier. As if we needed more entertaining, Soph came away with a pretty brutal hangover after a big night on the Vino tintos and Hayley was breaking it down on the D floor caterpillar style.

WARNING/DISCLAIMER: There are a few photos to follow due to the sheer amazingness of this region!

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Having a chin wag with Ed
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Learning to tie knots sailor style
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Glacier - One of onlt two which are still growing (the other we are heading to see soon)large_DSC_0065.jpg

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Land bound - heading off to the heritage village
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Our boat is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!
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Group jump in which we do not feature since other people do not seem to be able to take jump shots very well

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Ed getting ready with his cask f fabulous vino tinto
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Its party time on the Boat and all are getting in amongst
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Did someone say conga line? YES please!
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The caterpillar was a hit with all
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We are now in Puerto Natales about to embark on a four or five day hike in the Patagonian wonderland - watch this space, there will be countless photos to follow I am sure!

Peace out team!

xox

Posted by ladiesofleisure 08:45 Archived in Chile Tagged chile pucón navimag Comments (3)

No Entiendo

Santiago, Valparaiso and Mendoza

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See the itinerary of this trip, and details about each destination.

The trip to the Americas was lengthy but not without incident. En route to Panama we hear a call over the intercom for assistance from any doctors or nurses on board. I elbowed Hayley, as naturally, being audibly challenged she didn’t catch the announcement. Without a second to waste she up and ready to get all Grey’s Anatomy on it.

The patient presented with chest pain, but unfortunately it wasn’t Pam’s time to shine – he was a Spanish speaker and apparently communication is important in the nurse-patient relationship. Some med students assisted instead. Another announcement told of a pending early landing in light of the medical emergency. Meanwhile a second passenger suffers chest pain and is attended to by the over-worked med students. I ask Hayley if chest pain is contagious.

Relieved at the answer and the fact that the landing is aborted given the patient’s new-found well-being, I go back to catching zzzz’s.

Some hours later we are again awakened by an announcement by a very shaken airhostess asking for medical assistance once more. Thinking that our amigo had had a relapse and given we were now mid-Atlantic, it seemed quite the pickle. Alas, it was actually an airhostess having a seizure. HPL again whipped down the back to assist and did stuff with a stethoscope. Again language was an issue (German crew) so this patient was also left to the med students. With that her shift was over. The airhostess bounced back (we believe) and thankfully no more patients were admitted.

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Some sweet views along the way

After almost two days in transit, we were stoked to arrive in our hostel in Santiago, get horizontal and try and revert kankles back to ankles.

The following day and ½ was spent taking in the city. Perhaps that wasn’t long enough to give a good assessment, or we weren’t where we should be, but we felt a little underwhelmed. Aside from the spectacular backdrop of the Andes (which can be seen from some convenient mole-hills in the city) the city itself felt like it was in need of a good urban planner and a dash more soul.

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Santiago Skyline

The next stop was Valpariso – a port city on the hills overlooking the Pacific. Famous for its cerros (hills), heritage-protected ascensors (hill-side elevators/cable cars), seafood and pickpockets we were (mostly) excited to get amongst. At the bus station we were wooed by ‘Nelly’ who had a self-contained cabana out the back of her place. Sold.

Valpo, as the locals call it, has its charms; pastel-coloured houses on the hills, golden beaches and spectacular vistas. Equally it has its fair share of draw-backs, namely the common tang of stale urine in the air and a rather unappealing downtown area. We had three stunning days in Valpo and I even enjoyed a dip in the freezing pacific – think ice-cream headache-on-your-feet-cold.

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Gorgeous golden beaches

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Funny little piers

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Beach

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Playing up in the hills and admiring the colourfull houses!

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A fun ride in the Ascensor

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Colourful graffiti everywhere

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Seal hangout

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View from atop our cerro!

The trip to Valpo was a means to bide time until our week of Spanish lessons was due to kick off in Mendoza, Argentina. So, we retraced our steps a little and headed across the Andes to Argy overnight (with a 0230-off the bus, on the bus, walk-through of customs = less than conducive to a good nights’ sleep).

Mendoza is vino-mecca for Argentina – I’m told the region produces 70% of the nation’s drop. Situated on the flat next to the Andes in the middle of the desert – it really is a beautiful oasis. To keep the city green – there are mini irrigation canals running along every street next to the trees (which have all been planted one-by-one in this artificially lush town).

Quite fortuitously and unintentionally, our visit to Mendoza coincided with the annual harvest festival, which is a big deal here. Think – pink ‘wine’ fountains, fiestas every night for a fortnight, a tightly contested beauty pageant and parades where the ‘queens’ toss fruit to/at the crowd (including melons. Yes, melons – we were thankful not to sustain any head injuries).

8519943694_f761960984_b.jpgWine degustation on night one

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Hanging out at one of the events. Free wine and music on the rooftop - sure thing!

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Wine fountain anyone??

Whilst we did enjoy some of these extra-curricular activities - the focus was 4hours/day of lessons, a bit of homework and perfecting the art of the siesta. Now at the end of the week we have a few of the basic concepts on board to build on our survival Spanglish.

8519910378_5ea3a1d0a6_b.jpgHitting the books

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Believe it or not we are studying in the park here. Great way to meet people is to hang out at these intercambios where the locals can practice English and we can practice the ol Espanol

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The last day of school was spent in the kitchen learning how to cook empanadas (all in Español). Harder than it looks to fold these puppies up

Our last day in Mendoza was spent riding around the vineyards of Maipu sampling the local specialties like Malbec and Torontes and avoiding the crowds back in town who were itching to find out who Miss Mendoza 2013 will be… Results to follow.

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Malbec Grapes

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Beautiful Scenery of Maipu Valley
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Sweet Bikers - Pretty much sons of Anarchy right there

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Wine museum
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Chillaxing after the really tough day out

Random fact: They put their rubbish out daily in Mendoza... Cray CRAY
Next stop – Pucon, Chile on the road south.

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Hopefully we can find a washing machine so we can stop with the handwashing

Posted by ladiesofleisure 17:53 Archived in Argentina Tagged beach chile argentina santiago wine mendoza valparaiso Comments (6)

Winding up the Eurotour

London, Wales, Kent and Hamburg

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So much happens in such a short amount of time… Will try to keep you entertained as much as poss. I know Dre wanted bullet points so we may have to resort to that!

After escaping from the thugs in Ireland, we were obviously still a tad wary so hid our camera away a lot. Still managed to document the action in the past two weeks however.

London has stacks to see and do. We tried to get amongst a few hotspots with the help of our trusty companion – a hand-written guide penned by Alice and Seth (shout out to you guys – it never left our hands and lucky we had all the thyme in the world to decipher those dodgy maps).

Never the less, over our three days here, we followed three prescribed day trips, which paid off in dividends. The focus inevitably was food and we were very grateful to utilise the local foodie knowledge.

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Dins @ Jamie's Italian

The bodyguard musical was on the list as Soph’s choice for birthday theatre… I had a preference for Warhorse, but of course she won out it being a b’day present and all. She even made me watch it on TV a few nights later (I think I have now reached my lifetime Whitney Houston quota.)

Also on the cards much to my delight was a couple of trips to Londons’ natural history museum (Skinny you would love it here I am sure). It is free for a start, which is always a bonus, but there were some amazing exhibitions for us to check out including the wildlife photographer of the year exhibit and real live dinosaur bones. Suh Weet Bix!

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Squirrel attack in St James Park

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Big B and Hyde Park
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Stalking Queeny and Henry VIII kicking about at Hampton Court

So with some excellent feeds under our belt and all the sights ticked off – Big Ben, Westminster, London Bridge, Covent Garden, Hyde Park, Kensington Garden, Buckingham Palace, Hampton Court and some visits in to some wonderful family friends… We headed off to visit some of my long lost family.

Wales. Well we were in a little place called Pencoed, a short drive from Cardiff. The primary focus of the trip was to catch up with my Papa’s brother who I have not seen since I was 10. That was great to have some family time and to talk about the good ol’ days and be flabbergasted by uncanny family likenesses.

Whilst most of the time was spent chewing the fat, we did squeeze in some touristing; Cousin Brynn took us to St Fagans - an open air museum/village of replica Welsh houses from every era (as early as the Iron age to the 1980’s). We came away with a new appreciation for mod-cons such as windows and electricity.

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Welsh coast and St Fagans

Next family visit was across to the other side of the UK to Kent which is where my Papa grew up and where the remainder of his family still reside. Folkestone was the destination and we stayed with Great Aunty Sylvie here. Was really good to see some old family videos from when Nan and Papa were alive (Soph saw where I got my cray cray personality from when she saw Nan cackling on the video). We took the opportunity while here to go and see the oldest cathedral in UK – Canterbury. Was also a good opportunity to catch up with Soph’s cousin Ant who works at the university there.

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Sylvie, Mike and Hayley outside where her Papa grew up in Folkestone

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Canterbury Cathedral

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Cousins unite!

It was then back to Cambridge to see how Izzie was going with her KPI’s. After a slow start she has surpassed all expectation and now resembles a good chubby baby as she should. Very pleased with progress.
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In matching hand-knitted cardies care of Hayley

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Chazz and Iz

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Family Soiree!

With that we wrapped up our UK leg and jetted to Hamburg to catch-up with our old mate Brigitte to see how much swine we could consume in three days. The answer was – a lot. Anyone heard of pork knuckle?

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A night out at Brauhaus with Georgia and Brigitte

Hamburg is, according to Georgia (B’s Schweste-in-law), Europe’s best kept secret. Having barely touched the sides of the continent, we can’t really vote, but it has to be in the running. We were well-impressed with grand ol’ architecture and plush apartments lining the canals and lakes. The German efficiency was a delight as well. A place where PT always runs to time. Exactly to time. Amazing.

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Canal!
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Best fish dish of all time
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Just your stock-standard town hall
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Ice on the Alster
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Stroll next to the Alster
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Miniature wonderland - bravo!

Highlights of Hamburg:
• Miniature wonderland – has to be seen to be believed
• Swine and Steins
• Old buildings and stuff
• Friendship – yay Gits!

Next stop - Sud America

Posted by ladiesofleisure 14:10 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged uk hamburg wales Comments (1)

England, Ireland and near death experiences

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We left off last time with the promise of us building a snowman – so here it is, a pic of our very first snow woman. Isn’t she beautiful!!!

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In the days following this engineering marvel we had some quality time with the niece and clocked up some ‘firsts’ like her first bath, first pub visit and landing her first entire dump on her mother.

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We also enjoyed the beauty of Cambridge with a few more walks around the backs of the colleges before the next stop of Peterborough.

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Now for those of you familiar with the region, working-class Peterborough would not make everybody’s list and you may be wondering how it featured on ours… We like to take the Lonely Planet and disregard its recommendations and go off-piste for a more grass-roots experience. Plus we were catching up with our old Italian flatmate Sara, from Wellington who is now living here.

Peterborough did not disappoint – the company was grand, the pubs welcoming and we had the opportunity to watch the Peterborough Phantoms – local ice hockey dynamos, do their thang. The highlight was the near-death experience of being narrowly missed by a wayward puck that whistled between the two of us. We were lucky to walk away with all sets of teeth intact.

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We also made a quick trip up to the very picturesque Stamford for the day, which for those who are interested is one of the oldest stone villages around these areas.

Since then we have hit the shores of Ireland where we have been staying with another old flatmate – Anne-Marie from Melbourne. We have continued with our off-piste tactics spending time away from the hotspots, instead opting for County Wexford.

Population 131,000 – Wexford is a quiet seaside town with enough charm to keep us interested. We have been to an ‘open mic night’, Hayley was going to sing Tutira mai nga iwi, but was too late registering. Keeping on the culture theme we also attended an event showcasing a medley of arts including belly dancing, poetry, a short film and acoustic acts! We were very impressed and vowed to make more effort of get out more in our real life to soak this stuff up!

Aside from the good dose of culture, we were treated with a good taster of Ireland; rugby, Guinness, precipitation, potatoes etc and most importantly some great laughs with long lost friends. We certainly have been pleasantly surprised with Wexford in particular given its derision by our local mates Anne-Marie and Rachel! Bravo Wexford – we will be back.

8446635370_6c3eaef2b7_b.jpg Gorgeous Robyn
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Today has been the last day in Ireland – an early start to catch the train up the East coast to Dublin. It was a stunning train journey through green hills, forest and mostly coastline, which kept us well entertained.

There were a couple of things on the hit list for the day in Dublin:
1. Trinity College – the sole college of Dublin Uni. A beautiful campus with a lot of history, which I won’t bore you with.
2. The Guinness Storehouse – Awesome tour of the brewery, culminating in a pint of the finest at the top for a view of Dublin whilst you down your porter. See, I did learn something – Guinness is a porter.

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What we didn’t realise was that there was something else on the hit list – us.

Upon exiting the factory, we made our way back into town to jump on a bus to the airport. We walked down a street, which looked a bit like it was lined with housing estate flats, and I commented that we may be strolling through the ghetto. We got to a street corner and were waiting to cross the road.

On the corner was a pub, naturally.

At the same time one legless Irishman walked out with his buddy. He started to walk towards us muttered and his mate pulled him back. I didn’t think much of it as we had been verbally abused by a woman similarly worse for wear that morning and we hadn’t felt threatened at any point.

But before I knew it, he was coming at us again and said ‘Gimme the camera!” which was around my neck. Soon enough he was trying to drag it off me. I resisted but eventually thought buggar this – I’ll just hand it over. He had the camera in hand, but Hayley decided that wasn't going to fly and went to grab it back. The thug started hitting her, and the poor thing copped a few to the head. Thankfully – she has copped a knock to the head before care of the ol’ Muay Thai career.

At this point Hayley is screaming for help and traffic stops, there are horns hooting and people yelling at this guy. She regains possession of the camera and the pr*ck retreats with the guidance of his mate.

As much as we (Hayley) wanted to chase him and dish out some just desserts/knuckle sandwiches, we had our camera and just wanted to get out of there!

All in all, a pretty scary ordeal and a first-hand insight into some of the desperation resulting from this depressed economy. We have also been given some perspective on trying to keep a low profile and have one’s wits about you at all times. Hayley will also make sure the knitting needles are on hand should there be a next time - as she has already proven what effective weapons they can be.

Unfortunately – we have no pics of the attacker; they would have definitely been blog-worthy!

Just arrived back in London town. The show must go on.

Posted by ladiesofleisure 01:07 Archived in Ireland Tagged dublin cambridge guinness wexford peterborough mugged Comments (4)

The adventure begins.

NZ, London and Cambridge

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And so the adventure has begun!

We headed home to NZ to knock off a couple of weddings first up. Both were stunning occasions and really good for us to get in a couple of good feeds before we left. We are unemployed now so have to take the food where we can get it since we don’t know where the next pay cheque is coming from! Also really nice to have some quality time with the whanau whilst appreciating one of our favourite countries in the world – NZ.

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We hung out in Auckland for a week staying with Drach – we took over their couch and blobbed out to watch some of the Aussie open – was far nicer in the balmy 26 degrees of Auckland than the 38 degrees of Melbourne!

But finally we were ready to head off and with only a minor delay in KL, we made it to London – and the wonderful snow!

After an action packed day with Scoops around Borough Market and a visit to the Shallens, we headed off for some Vietnamese deliciousness, all the while taking in the London sights so familiar from TV. A common phrase from my lips since arrival has been “it feels like we are in a movie”. It is all just so surreal.

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And finally we arrived to our first visit with our newest niece little Isabel Beatrix Witheford. She is the whole reason for us being in the UK so was good to come face to face with her. And gosh she was worth the wait. She is just so cute!

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So for the past couple of days we have been visiting with Soph’s side of the family around Cambridge. For those unfamiliar with the region, it has so much history and is simply amazing – particularly with the fresh layer of snow covering the whole area. We had a wee punt along the river Cambridge, taking in some history (while freezing our butts off) while sipping on some essential mulled wine.

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We have a few more days hanging with the Withefords here in Cambridge before heading off to see a few friends around UK and Europe.

Next up in todays agenda is building a snowman!!

Missing you all (sort of) and would love to have you all as folllowers on the blog so we feel loved!! Will try to keep you in the loop as to our travels whilst trying not to bore you too much.

Love to you all

SPAM xox

Posted by ladiesofleisure 07:15 Archived in England Comments (11)

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