A not-so-white Christmas in Switzerland
(19/12/16 – 27/12/16)
We arrived in Zurich after 1 month in South East Asia and the cost of living hit us hard, going from $5USDpp/night to CHF25pp/night for accommodation was not an easy transition. The transition from hot tropical weather to a freezing winter was nothing in comparison. You can check out our other post How to see 4 Countries in South East Asia for less than $1500/person here.
We met up with the Medel family on day 2 in Zurich and spent another 2 nights in the city. We enjoyed looking for food that resembled the price of Asia, we enviously windowshopped along the river front and admired the modern amenities offered throughout the city including overly large toilet seats.
On day 3 we took our first very expensive train to Interlaken (CHF72pp) where we would be spending 1 week over Christmas in a more than comfortable wooden cottage at the base of the valley of Lauterbrunnen, generously paid for by Lizzy and Dougy.
We enjoyed hiking, paragliding (CHF164pp + CHF40 for the video footage, checkout our video on Youtube here), eating and a lot of drinking. We felt obligated to try the cheese fondue but generally preferred other local dishes such as the schnitzel. The 8km hike to the summit of Männlichen was well worth the effort but taking the scenic lift ride back down (CHF20pp) is definitely recommended.
We came to Lauterbrunnen in search of a white Christmas but instead we got lovely, sunny days. We did, however find enough snow to build a child sized snow man, a couple of doll sized snow man/woman and have a proper snowball fight.
After our week in Interlaken we took our second very expensive train to Basil (CHF69pp) in order to catch our connecting train to Dijon, France (€48pp).
A few days in France
(27/12/16 – 30/12/16)
We arrrived in Dijon in the early afternoon and checked into our Airbnb (€20pp/night) located very close to the beautiful old town of Dijon. Sign up for Airbnb and get $41 off your first adventure.
We enjoyed 1 night in Dijon eating cheap baguettes, fresh pastries and also tasting many different varieties of mustard, their claim to fame. There is also a free Natural History museum that takes around 1 hour to explore full of dinosaur bones.
Dijon is a very easy city to explore by foot and finding key attractions is made even easier by the trail marked out on the footpath.
After our time in Dijon we took another train to Paris (€25pp). For some reason the people in France get very nervous about taking the train and even tried to board the train before we could all get off, frantically stating “the train will leave without us”.
Eventually we made it to our Airbnb in Paris (€29pp/night), not so glamorous but close to all the good stuff.
We had 2 nights but only one full day in Paris so our itinerary was packed with subway rides (€1.9/ride) and quick stops, we did manage to fit in enough time for a warm French onion soup. We almost made it to all the big ticket items, even after spending 3 hours in the freezing cold waiting to enter the Catacombs (€13pp), be aware people try to sell fake tickets in the line, only missing out on the Notre Dam. Give yourself at least 2 full days or more in Paris to enjoy it properly.
After Paris we were heading to London on our most expensive train yet (€83pp)! The customs necessary to leave the Paris train station were chaotic, with 3 lanes merging into 1 and then back out into 6. Absolute madness. The customs was so overwhelmed that trains were delayed in order to give passengers enough time to get through.
New years in Merry ol’ London
(30/12/16 – 02/01/17)
Arriving in London, taxis could not accommodate our large group so we split up. I took the very efficient subway with Jacob (prepaid cards cost a couple of pounds which is refunded when returned) while the others took the luggage in the taxi.
Our next Airbnb was a very flash apartment located near Brick lane (famous for its Indian curries) and again covered by Lizzy and Dougy. It was here we met up with Eilish and her boyfriend, Greg.
In London we went a little nuts with our cash, we ate at nice restaurants, we went out to nice pubs and even spent New Years Eve drinking 2 for 1 cocktails until the early hours of the morning.
On New Years Day Keiran was extremely sick (not from alcohol) and spent the entire day in bed with tissue up his nose. Unfortunately the next day we were heading to the North of England but Keiran still had not managed to shake his man flu. It was also the last time we would see Keiran’s family for over one and a half years so a teary farewell was in order.
A road trip with our Pommy friend in the north of England
(02/01/17 – 08/01/17)
We took the train from London to Seaham (£17pp, book in advance for cheap deals) to meet up with our well travelled friend Rachael. She had taken an entire week off work to show us the best parts of the north. She even allowed us to stay in her bedroom (subjecting her younger sister to sharing a bed with her) in her parent’s house who were extremely welcoming.
Our first couple of days were spent exploring the town of Seaham, eating the famous cod and chips with curry sauce and mushie peas with vinegar, trying the local icecream at Licketysplits (even in winter icecream is still very popular) and walking along the beaches looking for treasure, polished glass. We also sampled our first proper English Sunday roast with Pauline and Edmund Jones’ Yorkshire puddings! The Kendal mint cake was not our fave but is still worth a try.
After our first few days we met up with Rachael’s friend (now soon to be husband, who could’ve seen that coming?) Andrew who would be double dating with us on our road trip through the Lakes District. During our trip we hiked, we drank, we ate delicious vegan and pub food (£10pp with beer), we stayed in a fancy farmhouse and a hostel with a private bathtub! We also got to see stone circles, Hadrian’s wall and the famous Robin Hood tree.
Once we returned back to Seaham we took another road trip to Edinborough, Scotland, the land of the Irnbru softdrink, to make the most of the end of the Christmas markets. Another friend of Rachael’s, Anna, also happened to manage 9 stalls so anything we wanted, we got, including doughnuts, chocolate kisses, roast pork sandwiches, bratwurst, cheese wheels, roasted nuts and mulled wine. Best Chrissy markets by far!
The hospitality of the north is extremely generous and our time in Seaham was some of our best memories from England. If you do make it to Seaham in the north of England be sure to check out Oddies for a couple of Diesels, a famous local blend of cider, lager & blackcurrant.
Taking a rest in Cheltenham
(08/01/17 – 18/01/17)
After our time in Seaham we made our way back to London by train (£36pp) to meet up with Bonny’s mother and brother for a few days sight seeing. Unfortunately our dates aligned with the subway strikes making our ability to get into central London a little more difficult and tense.
Despite the strikes we eventually made it to central London by bus where we could get around easily enough by foot. Since it was Lesley’s last few days in England we had to fit a lot of attractions into our short time frame. We managed to tick off Big Ben, London Bridge, Buckingham Palace, The Eye and Hyde Park as well as the little known Obelisk, Cleopatra’s Needle.
The next day we made our way towards the airport for Lesley’s late night departure. Along the way we stopped in at Windsor Castle (£10pp) for a quick tour around the grounds and through the main rooms before finally making it to the International Terminal. Bonny and Tim said a teary farewell to their mother before we pushed on into the very posh Cheltenham, in the Cottswolds.
Our time in Cheltenham was basically spent relaxing and recovering from our winter flu. We enjoyed a few nights out at trivia, had a delicious roast lunch with Sarah’s family, got in a lot of puppy time with Sarah’s parent’s new lab, Ruby and made a couple of furry friends down at the park. There are plenty of activities nearby, such as visiting the Roman town of Bath, however we couldn’t find the energy to get out and do them.
Bar hopping in Wales
(18/01/2017 – 21/01/2017)
After our farewells to Tim and Sarah we caught our bus to Cardiff (£9pp), Wales to meet up once more with Jacob. Our time here was short and sweet giving us enough time to enjoy the harbour via boat, visit the Doctor Who museum, exploring the free natural history museum, sample one too many beers and for Bonny and Jacob to visit Cardiff Castle (£10.50pp). In order to do Wales justice you really need to escape the cities and take a stroll in the countryside or visit the coastline further west.
Back to London one more time
(21/01/2017 – 24/01/2017)
Back in London for our final time before heading over to Brussels, we had the pleasure of staying in a 32 bed dormitory hostel near Elephant and Castle (£12.5pp/night). During our last few days in the UK we joined Jacob, largely responsible for our Eurotrip itinerary, in farewelling his new found friends as he was now heading back to Australia after living 2 years abroad. We were also lucky enough to have the time to meet up with our old university mate, Peter Lavender who had also been living and working abroad as a school teacher thanks to his dual citizenship.
Other cheap activities to enjoy while in London include the variety of free (tip based) walking tours. Since we had already seen the main attractions in London we decided to join the Harry Potter and Jack the Ripper walking tours. The Jack the Ripper tour was particularly interesting and spooky, especially on a cold winters night, as well as very entertaining thanks to our energetic guide ‘Big Ben’, an up-and-coming classically trained actor. The Harry Potter tour was also enjoyable, however all die hard fans really need to visit the Harry Potter World (£41pp tickets need to be booked well in advance) which we will be doing when we return to the UK!