Beautiful Vienna

After London I didn’t write any more posts – I’m writing this one for completeness and to get some photos from Vienna up on the site. It’s based on my fading memories, a long time after my return to Australia.

During the flight from Gatwick to Vienna, I sat next to an interesting guy who was involved in testing for mobile phone networks. After landing he generously offered to drop me off at Leopoldstadt where I was staying during my time in Vienna. It was getting late so after meeting my wonderful Airbnb host, Andrija, I headed to bed.

In the morning, I pulled on my winter woolies and ventured to the train station. The subway system was very similar to Berlin; clean, efficient and well-organised. I traveled a short distance and got off at Stadtpark station.



Vienna in the autumn… this is the pond at the Stadtpark just east of the city centre.


The Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s cathedral), one of the tallest churches in the world, right in the middle of Vienna.


View from the top of Stephensdom…


I spent a lot of time in the city centre, there is so much to see and do. Plenty of interesting historic buildings (including the Mozarthaus Vienna and the Haydnhaus – the Viennese are very proud of their musical heritage), fantastic shopping and variety of museums and gardens.

Of course I couldn’t resist going to a traditional pub and eatery and enjoying some Wienerschnitzel, dumplings with gravy, and Stiegl beer (this was obviously not a tourist place, only one of the waitresses spoke some English, there was some ‘system’ which I was ignorant of but she was very forgiving. She seated me with an elderly couple asking them something along the lines of, ‘do you mind if this gentlemen sits with you at the table, he is Englischer and does not speak Deutsch‘).


Schönbrunn Palace – this photograph just doesn’t do it justice. The Habsburgs sure knew how to impress… I would actually rate this better than Versailles.


The picture above shows a small part of the impressive Schönbrunn Gardens, with the Gloriette in the background.


I visited a training session at the famous Spanish Riding School near the centre of Vienna, to observe the riders taking some of the Lipizzaners through their paces.


The Neue Burg at night – view from the Heldenplatz.



Buggy rides for tourists near the Hofburg Palace.



Andrija’s apartment in Leopoldstadt was a short walk to a major train station, and very close to the Viennese Prater, a large amusement park – the oldest in the world. It features a massive flying swing, a rollercoaster, and a planetarium. It was off season when I visited and most of it was closed, but still very interesting and would be a great place for a family day out with kids. I was also hoping to visit the Viennese Christmas night markets, unfortunately I was in Vienna a little early, and the markets did not start until shortly after I had to leave.

My trip was nearly at its end. I caught an early morning train south out of Austria and into Italy once again, arriving in Milan that evening to heavy rain and massive flash floods. I spent a final few enjoyable days in Milan, again with some wonderful Airbnb hosts, before leaving on my flight back to Sydney.

I’ve been back in Australia for some time now and often think back to the fantastic trip we had, and the great opportunity we had to spend time together as a family in such amazing locations. I can’t wait to go back!

Next time, maybe Scandanavia ?

Parting is such sweet sorrow

I’m going to cheat now, and cram 4 days of London into a single post. If I was writing about some other destination this might be reasonable but London has so much life, so manythings to see and to do, and my days there were so full, that I feel very guilty to summarize like this. Anyway. I’ll get over it. So here’s the ‘short’ version:


Enjoyed a Vietnamese lunch at the Tay Do cafe in Shoreditch, yummy Banh Xeo and Pho. 4/5. Reminded me of Australian Vietnamese restaurants like New East Asia in West End, Brisbane, or some mid-range joints in King St Newtown. Then, bus to Southwark and a wander through the Borough Market. Highly recommended if you’re visiting London for more than a couple of days, especially if self-catering. Fantastic food, from fresh fruit and veg, to Turkish pastries, the best of English and Continental cheese, hot pies, delicatessens full of gourmet sausages, etc, etc, etc. A short stroll west and I came across the ‘smarties’ lights, and a very strange art installation called ‘A pound of flesh for 50p’ – a full sized house made of wax, slowly melting even in the cold London Autumn.


Borough Market fruit & veg

Borough Market fruit & veg

Then, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I went on the guided tour which was very interesting and well worth the admission. The building is a remarkable recreation of the original Globe, based on contemporary accounts and archaeological evidence from the nearby Rose theatre. It’s also a rare (the only?) example of a thatched-roof building in post-Fire London, which apparently required special building code exemptions and extensive sprinkler systems. Shakespeare’s works are performed here in the traditional style without props or electronic amplification. And just like in the Bard’s time, you can buy a standing-room-only ticket in the Yard for a low price – just 5 pounds in today’s money!

I finished off the night with another MeetUp, this time at a pub in Leicester Square and many cheap beers were enjoyed. Unfortunately the best thing they had on tap was Becks.


I spent the morning catchingup on some administrative tasks… like laundry, email and booking the next leg of my trip. Then I walked down the street to Brick Lane. This is hipster central in the trendy East End. Everywhere you look there is a coffee shop, a gallery, a bookstore. Some truly excellent street food from vendors working out of vans in parking lots, and all the arty types flock from adjoining blocks to enjoy pulled-pork brioche, southern style fried chicken, paella, or a beef rendang. Also, well worth visiting while in this district – the BrewDog bar on Bethnal Green Road. Had a couple of very enjoyable IPAshere.

Apparently Poppie's has the best fish & chips in London. But the line was too long for me!

Apparently Poppie’s has the best fish & chips in London. But the line was too long for me!

I returned to Leicester Square (again) and took a break from touristing to see a movie (Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar). Then out into the night to have a look at Carnaby Street and Soho. My girls would have absolutely loved it here, the shopping, the food and the people-watching is world class! I bought some souvenirs for them from VINMAGand then basically wandered around taking photos.








The Lord Mayor’s Parade! I headed into town just outside St. Paul’s, enjoying the marching bands and floats from the various city guilds (The Worshipful Company of Launderers? Seriously?). OnceI had enough British Army recruitment propaganda,I enteredSt Paul’s. The church on this site dated back to 604 AD, but today’s cathedral was builtbySir Christopher Wren after the original was gutted bythe Great Fire of 1666. St Paul’swas Wren’s crowning achievement, and that’s saying something – he was responsible for construction of 52 London churches after the fire. After gawking around the ground floor I descended to the tombs beneath, and visited the final resting places of Horatio Nelson and the Arthur Wellesley.

After St Paul’s I went to the London Museum, which tracks life in and around London since prehistoric times, through Roman settlement, the middle ages, the Glorious Revolution, Victorian times and the modern day. A great place to visit, but you’ll need to allow several hours for even a hurried visit.

By this time it was mid afternoon and I was getting hungry, so I walked to the Punch Tavern for some British-style fish & chips, and watched the last half of the excellent Australia v Wales rugby match. Australiatriumphedin the last few minutes of a very close game, to the great disappointment of several locals.

I walked along Fleet St towards Charing Cross but then the rain hit, in a big way. My pocket umbrella was not up to the job so I called it a day.


A quiet day to finish my time in London. I spent the morning looking around Shoreditch and the Liverpool St area, then caught the tube to visit the British Museum where I spent most of the afternoon. This place is absolutely massive and you could spend a week here without seeing everything. I used the audio guide and had a brief tour of the Egyptology section (highlights: the Rosetta Stone; & the 5500 year oldGebelein Man). I thought the horology section was also very interesting with working examples of old pendulum clocks, balance-spring watches, and nautical chronometers. TheKing’s Library (the “Enlightenment Gallery”) is also worth a visit and contains some artefacts from James Cook’s journeys to Australia and New Zealand.

Farewell to old England (forever?)

Then all too soon it was time for this colonial toleave London behind. I wasn’t bound for Botany Bay just yet though, I would first be visiting Vienna for my final taste of Europe on this amazing trip.

London was an unexpected highlight of my holiday and it’s been difficult to describe the incredible buzz of this city. I really hope to come back one day soon.

Lord Mayor's Parade crowds and St Paul's

Lord Mayor’s Parade crowds and St Paul’s

Remember remember

On my second fullday in LondonI jumped on the tube and switched to the Bakerloo line.I disembarked at Baker St and headed towards number 221b – the home of the famous detective, Sherlock Holmes.

In the time of Sir Arther Conan Doyle, Baker St numbers only went as high as N 85, so the address is entirely fictional. But today at 239 Baker St you can find the Sherlock Holmes Museum. The shop is free and has a great range of Holmesesque merchandise including pipes, deerstalker hats, and detective paraphernalia. Entrance to the museum is ten pounds, a little steep I think but what are you going to do?”You pays your money…”

The museum itself is an old townhouse of the style Holmes and Watson would have lived in. In several rooms there are still-life re-enactments of several mysteries from Doyle’s books, complete with mannequin Holmes and Watson. Lots of 19th century antiques to have a look at. Worth a visit if you’re a Holmes fan; otherwise, I wouldn’t bother.


Elementary, my dear Watson!




I also had a walk past Lord’s cricket ground but it’s not possible to just have a wonder around, you need to be part of a guided tour (there were none scheduled at the time I was there) or of course attending a match. Apparently being an Australian, is not in itself enough to gain admission and fondle the urn, despite ourrecent 5-0 Ashes victory.

A little further north of Lord’s is Abbey Road, where I joined several other tourists trying to get a good photo crossing the famous pedestrian crossing. I swapped cameras with another bloke so we could get shots of each other but it didn’t work as well as the original. Partly because we didn’t have the benefit of a policeman to stop the traffic for us – it’s a fairly busy street and I imagine locals are quite fed up with all of us idiots forever marching across and causing delays.

Abbey Road tourists

Abbey Road tourists

I had joined a couple of London MeetUp groups so that I might get to hang out with some locals during my time in London. That evening I met up with a large group at Canada Water station, and we all walked down to Southwark Park where the council was putting on fireworks for Guy Fawkes day. In Australia Guy Fawkes is no longer a big deal and passes without mention – but in my parents day when fireworks were apparently a hazard freely available to the public, the 5th of November waseagerly anticipated each year. Laurinda, who spent her early years in New Zealand, also reminisces fondly about Guy Fawkes Day and shakes her head in pity at my boring deprived childhood, so lacking in explosives. So I was looking forward to seeing what all the fuss was about.

Not to sound like a whinging pom, but it was pretty average. First of all, the weather was bloody freezing – easily the coldest night I experienced in Europe. I was shivering despite thermal underwear, jacket, beanie and gloves. The park was incredibly crowded. The fireworks were decent, but not really a match for e.g. Sydney Harbour on NYE, or Riverfire in Brisbane. There was no bonfire! Isn’t that the whole point of Guy Fawkes Day? And afterwards, our group trekked to the Old Salt Quay pub at Rotherhithe – which was full to overflowing, so we had to sit out on the balcony with no heating, and non-existent service.

Determined not to finish on a note like that, a few of us remaining die-hards decided to go and seek out some food. One of the blokes was an Arab musician who recommended a Lebaneserestuarant in Bayswater.

“Maroush” was an absolute treat. It’s part of a London chain, several of which can be found in Edgeware Road near the Marble Arch tube station. The food was great value and we enjoyed plates piled high with lamb, rice, bread, dips… staff were friendly even though we were there very late and they were about to close up for the night. Highly recommended.


London Calling

London wasn’t on the itinerary originally. I was having a hard time deciding where to go after Dubrovnik – it’s more than 24 hours by bus or train to get to Budapest, or Vienna; I could fly to these destinations and others but flights were mostly expensive, with detours via Turkey or Germany. When I saw that British Airways had a reasonable fare, direct to London, I jumped at the chance.

At the risk of stating the obvious, London is a city with a lot going on. I liked it immediately and not just because I could understand the language. There’s just so much the city has to offer, from history to culture to shopping and nightlife. The city is buzzingwith a great vibe and it is infectious.

On my first morning (Tuesday) I set out armed with my Oyster card, camera, gloves coat and beanie ready for some serious sightseeing. The day started out very cold but it soon warmed up as the sun climbed in the sky. I walkeddown past Liverpool Station and the Gherkin, and made my way to the Tower of London. There were big crowds here, even though it was still early, because of the 888246 ceramic poppies around the tower marking the centenary of the outbreak of WW1. Once inside the Tower walls I joined a tour led by one of the Yoeman Warders – this was very interesting and entertaining. The Tower complex has a rich history having served as a zoo, a prison, a military training ground, the mint, and more. The tour finished in theChapel of St Peter ad Vincula, the final resting place of Thomas More, Anne Boleyn, and many other notables.

Tower Poppies

Tower Poppies


Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge


In the afternoon I headed to Westminster Bridge on theother side of the city, toParliamentand Big Ben, followed by a walk through St James Park (where I was attacked by a squirrel; I guess he really didn’t want his photo taken) – and a brieflook atBuckingham Palace.

London Eye

London Eye

Big Ben

Big Ben


I finished the day at Leicester Square, with tired feet but not yet ready to head home. I was in the West End, so I bought some cheap last-minute tickets to see a musical… ‘The Commitments’. It was reasonably fun to watch but didn’t really blow me away… but I was impressed by the set construction, which included a cut-away 2-storey house that pivoted on and off the stage as needed.

I packed a lot into my first day, and managed to tick a lot of boxes in the ‘tourist must-sees’. But for the rest of my week in London I hoped to balance the sight-seeing with some real, contemporary London experiences.

Leicester Square tube station

Leicester Square tube station