Thursday, February 12, 2015

Orphanage School Expansion

Hi All,

If you've ever read our blog you'll know how much the Indian Orphanage means to us. They have a new IndieGoGo campaign running to expand their school. We're supporting them with this and we'd like you to consider it too! 

A New Year Update

It’s been over a year since our last update so we thought we'd better fill you in on our lives:

In mid-October 2013, we moved in with Jeremy for a few weeks, Miriam stated working and Brad decided to get some extra qualifications under his belt.  In November, we picked up a car for our East Coast trip (quite a novelty after 4 years without one), and moved into Tony’s room while he spent 2 months on an Australian road-trip. 2013 came to a crashing end with Brad’s mum (Margaret) suddenly and unexpectedly passing away just after Christmas.  

After spending January 2014 in Mt Gambier, we decided to put our East Coast trip on hold to spend more time supporting family. Coming back from Mt G and with no place to live or jobs to go to, we pitched our tent at Christies Beach, bought a kayak and looked for a coastal rental.  

Miriam started another role in February, so we re-pitched out tent at West Beach, whilst Brad studied, applied for jobs, kayaked and bailed out our tent during some crazy weather.  

Fortunately, our tenants move out of our city apartment early, so we moved back in mid-February, deciding to leave our coastal living for later down the track.  A second kayak was bought.

In March, Brad started a permanent IT role and Miriam was offered an admin contract with her old company.  We both took on a health and fitness challenge, 3 months without alcohol, healthy eating, running 3 times per week, meeting our weight goals by end of May. In June, Miriam commenced working in the same role she had prior to the Europe trip.  We entered a number of running events, including the City to Bay (12km) and McLaren Vale Half Marathon (Miriam 10km, Brad 21km). 

One of our favourite things of 2014 was news that the girls hostel at the Indian Orphanage was completed. We had provided the funds for this in our 2011-2012 Projects (bottom of a long post) and we were happy to see the smiles on the recipients faces. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Adelaide & Beyond

Home at last and it's good to be back! We've spent the last 2 weeks catching up with friends and family and working hard, applying for jobs. The friends are almost all caught up but the jobs are still lacking. We're after 3 months of work due to the fact that we have another big trip scheduled for early next year.  We're planning to drive up the East coast of Australia with a 4WD, kayaks and bikes and see a bit of our own backyard - now that we've seen everyone else's! We envisage this trip will take us 3-4 months and we're looking forward to a more relaxing, slower pace of travel. We'll be taking this opportunity to get ourselves fit and healthy with some study and self-improvement undertakings along the way. Stay Tuned!

Germany, Amsterdam & Prague

OK , we're back in Adelaide but before we get into the here and now, we'll finish up the then and there.....

Spain, France, Belgium, Germany - all in 24 hours

Not a lot to report on the trip to Germany apart from Brad claims he saw the Eiffel tower for 3 seconds as we skirted Paris, the rather ordinary Belgian waffles we bought from a Belgian petrol station and the fact that for a 27 hour bus journey we were surprised the bus had no toilet and stopped only every 4 hours....


We pulled in to Düsseldorf in the evening and after checking into our hotel ventured out for a bite to eat. Our hotel was near the train station and it was a bit confronting to see so many dodgy characters milling about, causing a nuisance and making us feel more unsafe than we had anywhere else in our trip - not a good intro to Germany. After devouring a Polish hot dog from an Egyptian vendor, we quickly made our way back to our room for a good night's sleep.

The next day we got up around lunch time and wandered into a cafe where I had a Schnitzel and Miriam a thick Pea & Ham soup. This quickly alleviated our concerns about Germany and fortified us for the day's sight-seeing.


This was more like it, we decided as we arrived in Cologne - the moment we left the train station we were confronted by the colossal Cologne cathedral, with our hostel only a few steps up the road.

We had a great walk, hand-in-hand along the picturesque river, a drink in the pretty "old town" square and having being asked by our German friends Eddie & Nelly via a strange email request to have a German sausage at a particular sausage van, we felt obliged to do so.

That night we went and played pool at a nearby pub and met up with 2 friendly locals who couldn't play pool very well but were great conversation. They had both been to Australia and had some excellent tips for us on what to see when we do our East Coast trip next year! Australian travel advice from Germans turned out to be a common theme of conversation throughout our trip....


Once the capital of Germany (during the East/West split), Bonn is a pleasant,  small city with some pretty squares and buildings, not to mention the house where Beethoven was born. We had been recommended to make this day trip by some friends of ours and we were glad we did. 


One of the highlights of our Germany trip, Marburg is a beautiful small university town that escaped the worst of the bombing during the second world due to it's status as a hospital town. Its historic town centre looks amazing and from there we wandered up the road to Marburger Schloss (Marburg Castle) which is perched on a hill with amazing views of the entire town. We were staying with our friends, Eddie and Nelly who we met when they were backpacking in Australia. Since we saw them last they have had 2 children, Fiona (3) and Oskar (1) and it was great to catch up with them. We spent 4 nights with them and went on a few forest walks, local tours and even a BBQ in the back yard (almost) aussie style. It was a great change of pace for us as we had been pushing the pace of our trip recently, so this was a great way to recharge the batteries. We are hoping that they can come to Australia soon so we can repay their great hospitality!


We found ourselves with a few days spare before needing to be in Berlin to meet a friend and, as you do when in Europe, decided to exit Germany for a few days and visit Amsterdam. It turned out to be a good move as Amsterdam was one of the most interesting cities we visited. Interlaced with beautiful canals lined by quaint houses and containing more bikes than people, every corner seemed to hold a new surprise. Although a charming big city, it's not without its seedy side with coffee shops doubling as marijuana dens, and the infamous red-light district for which the word "discrete" would be a fitting antonym. 

We arrived during the Fringe festival, and whilst not quite of the same calibre as Adelaide's we enjoyed a great comedy/drama show that highlighted the absurdity and tragedy of the west's penchant for consumerism. To highlight the international flavour of our trip, I'll mention that us Australians, while we were in Amsterdam (The Netherlands) we met some friendly Germans (who spoke English) at the Irish pub where we were playing pool, they were from near Frankfurt and as we were staying there in a few weeks time, we exchanged numbers to catch up again!


Whilst not the prettiest city we visited, it was a culturally important destination as we both learnt a great deal about the World War II, the holocaust, East/West split and German reunification in 1989. The city has done a great job of incorporating this history in various places and we spent a number of days on foot, buses and metro seeing sights like the Reichstag, multiple parts of the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate and "The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe".


It was off to another country, the Czech Republic and it's capital Prague. This was definitely one of our favourite cities of the trip - a touch of Eastern Europe, it's amazing buildings & bridges and for cheapskates like us 5 months into our trip - inexpensive prices. 

During our time here, we visited the Prague castle, walked along the banks of the Vltava river, ate in & out and due to the chilly temperatures, bought some warmer clothing. The one downside to our time here was that due to the ineptitude of our hostel staff, we ended up with a bag full of wet clothes to take on our journey...


A short but very memorable stop on our schedule was Dresden, one of the most bombed cities in World War II. We stayed with friends, Stephan & Christine who we met also during their backpacking days in Australia. We had a lot to catch up on and unlike our friends in Marburg, due to timing constraints we only had 1 night to do it. Despite the short time frame, we spent a relaxing time with them, getting a local's tour of the city centre and being treated to a fabulous home cooked meal back at their place. 


The main reason for going to Munich was so we could attend the world's biggest fair - the Oktoberfest. Beginning in 1810, the 16-day festival has been attracting people from near and wide for over 200 years and these days has 6 million visitors per year. We can attest to the size of the crowd as we spent the best part of an hour fighting our way down the street, watching the parade and working closer to the opening gates. That was the easy bit however as finding a seat in one of the 20 huge tents was a bit tricky. After a few false starts we managed to secure a great spot with some friendly Germans and a bit later two Swiss blokes. In our group was the wife of the 2nd biggest Munich football team and also a former cycling olympian, nothing like hanging out with b-list celebrities.... As can be expected at an event like this there was some jaw-dropping behaviour from some of our neighbours but our bunch were older, wiser and had the ability to pace things well. The tents close quite early and one of our group invited us back to a discotheque (yes, that's what they're called) to continue partying - it was a tired and weary Brad & Miriam who trudged back to our tiny tent (hotels were too expensive) at about 4am the next day....


After a day's rest to recover from Oktoberfest we headed to Dachau, a former concentration and labour camp during the Nazi rule of Germany. We had an English speaking guide who was quite engaging and able to impress on us the horrors of the camp, the events leading to it's formation, and the role it played as a "model" for all other German labour camps. It was hard to imagine the atrocities that played out here between 1933-1945. Whilst not an extermination camp, disease, torture, exhausting work, medical experiments and "testing" of the gas-chamber still claimed well over 30,000 lives. It was a very sobering experience and a stark contrast to Munich's festival atmosphere.


This was our last day in Germany and it was great to meet up with Patrik and Manuel who we first met in Amsterdam. We played some pool at another Irish Pub and exchanged details - they both planned to visit Australia and we assured them we'd give them a locals tour if they do! The next morning we were off to the airport to begin our week long journey back to Australia.


Because we like doing things the hard way, we planned a 20-hour stopover in Colombo, Sri Lanka. After no sleep during our flight we arrived at the crack of dawn with not much clue about what to see. Everyone we spoke to recommended we visit Kandy in central Sri Lanka, so we did the opposite and headed south to Colombo the capital. The airport is an hour train journey from the capital although the trip seemed to take much longer as we were packed like sardines in a carriage that quickly became stifling under the tropical sun.

Our moods did not improve once we arrived however, as Colombo was not the most picturesque town. After touring the city with a dodgy rickshaw driver we'd seen enough and decided to cut our losses and head back to Negombo, a touristy beach town near the airport. The return train trip was much less crowded and Brad struck up a deep, philosophical conversation with a local that lasted the entire journey. Once in Negombo we escaped the heat in a couple of bars, having a pizza for dinner as we didn't want to risk a local curry just before our flight. After being driven up & down the main street in search of a pool table, we eventually found one where we had caught the rickshaw in the first place, and settled in for a few games whilst watching the kite surfers and a splendid sunset. 

Kuala Lumpur

After another overnight flight without much sleep, we were pretty wired by the time we made it into the city at 8:30am. Our plan to check-in early and crash was thwarted when the hotel informed us we couldn't check in until 2pm. So after pretty much 48 hours straight with no sleep we wandered about aimlessly for a couple of hours, returning at 11am in the hope we could get into our room, but alas it was not to be. Almost delirious by this stage we crashed on the lobby's armchairs and immediately fell unconcious. It wasn't until 2 hours later that a security guard prodded Brad and suggested we try again, this time with success. After another 4 hour nap we headed to the ritzy, expat side of town and met some young British teachers who had signed up for 2 years in KL. I asked how it was going and they said they were loving it but thought they might have over-committed. This wasn't too promising considering they were telling us this after only 1 week in the country!

We've spent quite a while in Malacca previously, so we knew what to expect. We spent 4 days here, catching up on sleep, relaxing, movie-watching and a spot of shopping.

After 6 months away is was great to return to a country that speaks English and had a familiarity to it. It was even greater to be able to catch up with our friends Tim & Julie and their 2 great kids Annabelle and Josh. After a night with them, we headed to Mt Gambier via train/bus.

Mount Gambier
We were in Mt Gambier for the October long weekend and as luck would have it, our entire immediate family chose that weekend to be there too. We had a great time of catching up, and after eating out for nearly 6 months it was nice to finally have some delicious home-cooked meals.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Spain II, Back With A Penchant.

We're a bit behind on our blogs at the moment.  We're currently at Frankfurt airport and we're homeward bound (via Sri Lanka & Malaysia). Since Spain (detailed below), we have been to Düsseldorf, Cologne, Marburg, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague Dresden & Munich. At our current blogging pace you won't hear about these places until we're already home!
Below is the next installment of our journey - the last bit of our Spanish saga.

Voted by us as one the top stays in Spain, Seville is a big, beautiful city with all the trimmings. Not checking the forecast beforehand, we booked a cheap room sans air-conditioning, so in the 45C midday heat it was actually cooler traipsing through the shady narrow streets than taking our usual afternoon siesta. One local was so incensed by our heat-of-the-day wanderings that he almost forcibly took us to a number of typical "patios" in nearby houses to demonstrate where sane people spend their time. We were hopeful that he'd let us rest in one but alas he had to get back to the shop he'd abandoned to play tour guide.

The 3 most notable sights were the largest cathedral in the world (Guinness book of world record certified), a giant waffle (see picture), and Miriam's favourite - Alcazar, a fantastic palace & surrounding gardens.

Sanlucar de Barrameda
Having enjoyed all the festivals that we had attended over the past few months, we were keen to see if there were any more nearby that we could gate-crash. Lo & behold in Sanlucar de Barrameda there was a horse racing festival, which is held on the beach. We stayed at a homestay kind of place where the proprietor insisted we rest first and fed us olives and the local wine - manzanilla. Thus fortified, we headed "to the races".

It was very much a local affair with families stretched out along the 2km of "track". Children set up small betting stalls with odds displayed and pencils and balloons as prizes, incredibly fun to watch but probably not politically correct enough to take off in Australia.

After watching a few of the races, we settled down at a beach café for a drink and to watch the beautiful sunset. Once dark, we headed into town which contained a fantastic plaza, ringed with tapas bars. The warm evening, live music and great tapas were an excellent finish to a great day.

If you want to go to Cadiz ever, please book ahead. We learnt the hard way by struggling to find anything in our price range (eg dirt cheap) and settled on a hostel that had one bed space left, but as it was publicly accessible by day, we could not use it until midnight. This warranted a night out and after a swim at the beach, listening to a local folk song competition and a nice chat with some Portuguese tourists, we set up our fold-down bed & got some much needed shuteye.

This is as close as we got to Africa if you don't count our 1 hour stop over in Cairo in June. Whilst hazy, we could just make out the Moroccan coastline over the Suez.  We were here to do a spot of whale watching but as luck would have it the weather was too rough and the only tours were for dolphins. Having seen them plenty in Australia, we figured we'd pass on that option and instead sampled the local tapas...oh well.....

An oddity in more ways than one, Gibraltar is a large rock outcrop on the coast of Spain. As far as I can tell it is a "British Other Territory", locally governed but under British protection. Spain want "The Rock" back but the local Gibraltians voted against that 12000-odd to 50, a few years before.

Because we were too stingy (a common theme for us), we stayed on the Spanish side and walked over both days. We enjoyed our first experience of Britain, traipsing all over, through (via tunnels) and below the rock. Much focus was also on the non-Spanish cuisine including meat pie, fish & chips, full English breakfast and also sampling the local beverage or two.

Another town visited for its festivities, Marburg has a local festival in which the flamenco, local food & wine are celebrated wholeheartedly. The festival comes in two parts - during the day the city centre comes alive with many locals dressing up in flamboyant flamenco outfits and roaming bands keeping the festive mood alive. After a short siesta, it was time to head to the fairgrounds for the evenings entertainment. It covered a huge area but after some overpriced and substandard food our enthusiasm waned and it was only salvaged after visiting a tent with some great Latin live music.

"Ahh Granada". Seriously, that's what everyone said about the place when we said we were going there. "Great tapas & it's free!" was all we had to hear to put this place on the itinerary. It lived up to it's reputation too. There were so many great places to go and not enough mealtimes to fit them in. When we weren't stuffing our faces, we wandered the winding streets until it was time for our visit to Alhambra, arguably the best palace in Spain.

We rented a budget apartment and were once again excited by the prospect of cooking for ourselves and doing laundry. After deciding that the kilometre-long lines for the 2 big museums were a tad long for our liking, we visited an exhibition at the CaixaForum instead.

With a number of friends contacting us from Germany and with limited time left on our trip, we decided to head north sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, flights to Germany were horrifically expensive, so we gritted our teeth and booked the 27 hour, Madrid-Dusseldorf bus. We now had only 1 day left in Spain.

For our last day we decided to head to Toledo, a small, historic town about one hour from Madrid. It was quite pretty and we decided to hit all the tourist sites at once. 10 km's later we were done and had a rest before going out for dinner.

The next day was a transit stop in Madrid before beginning our epic 27 hour bus trip to Dusseldorf, Germany. But that's for another post....

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Our time in Portugal

Ahh...that's better...

After a fair bit of "intense traveling" we've had a few days "off" relaxing poolside on the Algarve coast in Portugal and are now on the way back to Spain to continue our travels. But more of that later, we'll let you know what we've been up to since our last post.

Probably one of the most unique looking places we've been to so far, Porto is an old city built up on the steep banks of the river Douro. Famous around the world for it's Port wine, the city has been a mainstay of Portuguese trade for centuries. From a distance the place looks amazing with layers of buildings vying for space on the aforementioned steep banks. As you get closer it loses some of it's shine as you get the feeling it could do with a bit of a scrub down. With probably the highest concentration of fancy looking old buildings we've ever seen, it was hard to know where to look as you wandered the cobbled streets.

To celebrate Miriam's 35th birthday we checked in to a 4 star hotel for our stay here which, after camping and staying in budget "pensiones", was quite a treat, with Miriam enjoying the luxury so much I was starting to fear for my wallet if she insisted on continuing this trend. On the day we had lunch riverside, listening to some great live music. The following day was spent sightseeing and dropping into various wineries, sampling the local produce and learning about the history and manufacture of Port wine.

Billed as the "Venice of Portugal", Aveiro is a small city nicely decorated with canals that whilst pretty and provide a great way of seeing the place by boat, hardly compares to it's Italian counterpart. What it does have going for it however is friendly people. Fortunately for us we had arrived during a(nother) local festival, on asking the guy next to me what it was all about, we were pretty much adopted for 2 days by a local businessman who took us on a day tour around Aveiro & it's surrounding beaches and sites. Not content with this act of generosity he also invited us back to his place for an outstanding meal cooked by his lovely wife. That evening he also sat down with us at a local cafe and mapped out the rest of our Portuguese trip! This was very welcome as we hadn't really done our usual research and this had been concerning Miriam for some time.

An old University town, this place was great to walk around and see more old buildings. The highlight though was an evening spent at a local restaurant listening to "Fado" - Portuguese folk singing.  It may not sound like a great night out but the intimacy of the setting (cosy, dimly lit, stone walled building with no more than dozen patrons), a guy with a great voice and some very intricate guitar work made for a fantastic time.

A hot tip we received from a very friendly hostel manager was that the medieval festival in Obidos was a good night out. Set in an actual castle and complete with knights in chain mail, barbarians, jousting, sword fights, and more roasted meat than  is advisable, it was indeed a great night out - even if finding a taxi afterwards was a story in itself (one that will remain untold though).

This is the big smoke, the capital of Portugal and we were keen to sample it's wares. We'd heard that it was a bit of a party town and we put it to the ultimate test - a Monday night. It did not disappoint as we didn't need our fancy new phone's GPS to navigate to the epicenter of action in Bairro Alto, we simply followed the crowd noise. We rocked up at 12am and it was pumping. An eclectic mix of partygoers were enjoying the restaurants & bars that were serving up cheap drinks & good live music. We picked a (semi) quiet bar to enjoy the acoustic offerings where the friendly bartender shouted Miriam a cocktail that looked & tasted remarkably like the Portugal national dessert - Pastel de Nata.

More technology problems with our brand new phone dying and taking with it about 5 towns worth of photos. A day was spent getting it fixed, the day wasn't a complete loss however, ending on a high note with a meal cooked by ours truly as we had a kitchen for the first time. We enjoyed it so much that we cooked for the following 2 nights as well - a refreshing change from the mostly café food we have been consuming.

Whilst in Lisbon, we took a day trip to a nearby town called Sintra. Home of some of Europe's rich and famous in it's heyday, the place is littered with grand palaces and adjoining gardens. Having limited time and on foot we could only cover a castle and the most eccentric palace/garden. After what felt like about 100kms of walking (most of it uphill) we finished the day of with some great Chinese food and caught the train back to Lisbon.

This is where the weather got hot - Adelaide Summer hot. In 37C heat, walking with our backpacks from the bus station to our hotel to save the $7 fare, might not have been the smartest idea we've ever had, but we were fortified with the thought of a dip in our hotel's pool. Unfortunately we were told we couldn't check in until 3pm so we chose instead to traipse around the town checking off the sights. Big churches, check, Roman temple ruins, check, chapel with human bone wallpaper, check. Relieved to be done with the "touristy" bit, we checked in and headed to the pool. By now it was in shade and after about 2 seconds Miriam was frozen. In the evening we checked out the nightlife but after Lisbon it seemed a bit quiet.

Our last stop in Portugal was a campsite on the Algarve coast, we had heard about a popular seafood festival here and were  keen to sample the fare. We went twice to the festival and ate some pretty tidy shellfish offerings including mussels, prawns & crab - all the while being entertained by local music and a great U2 tribute band.

It wasn't all about the festival though as we did a day trip to a nearby town to see international sand sculptures, again seeing Bono and also Gandhi, Noddy and friends. A slight miscalculation on our (my) part sent us to the wrong place initially and it was a hot & stressed couple that made it back to camp that night.

To counter all the heat and activity of recent days much time was spent lazing poolside at the campsite, sunbathing and reading. This was a fitting way to finish off our Portuguese adventure.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Our (first) month in Spain

Where in the world are we?
(short answer - Portugal)

It's been a while hasn't it? Our laptop and iPod both died early in the trip and finding a replacement was less than trivial. Once this was sorted (Nokia 820 for those interested) the combination of a backlog of blog posts and having too much fun has worsened the situation. Compounding the problem is we don't have access to the photos from the first month of travel in Spain. NOTE: all the photos before Bilbao are from Google Images (that's why they're better than the ones we normally take)

So here's what we're going to do. Provide a summary of what we've been up to, throw some recent photos in and try and do better from now on.

1. Barcelona
Our first experience of both Europe and Spain & we loved it. We stayed a week (couch surfing through airbnb) in a inner suburb where we got to observe the local way of life as well as the plethora of tourist attractions. Highlights were meeting friendly locals, learning & practicing Spanish & Catalonian (very important to distinguish the two), the novelty of wandering the streets and also discovering the joy of picnicking in beautiful parks. An important task carried out was kitting ourselves out with camping gear for the travels ahead.

2. Calella de Palafrugell (Costa Brava)
This was our first camping adventure in Spain and was a great way to start. The tiny town boasts 3 or so small beaches with crystal clear (and freezing cold) water nestled in between rocky cliffs - think postcard perfect scenery. When we weren't lazing down by the beach we were roughing it back at the camp site either at the pool or at the pool table.

3. Girona
Miriam mistook this town for the fabled city of Verona of Romeo and Juliet fame, and I can understand why. Romance was in the air, most likely inspired by the gorgeous old buildings and rambling alleyways. We started getting adventurous in the culinary stakes, trying snails & rabbit (you can probably guess our preferred dish). We stayed with a lovely couple who made us feel very welcome and helped us understand more about Catalan & Spain in general.

4. Figueres
We did a day trip to here to see the surreal Salvador Dali museum. It certainly got you thinking, with some of the weirdest art you'll ever see. This trip was finished off with a delicious 3 course meal at a local restaurant and our first cider tasting experience.

5. Zaragoza
We only spent 1 night here as a stopover before Pamplona. It was quite nice, with beautiful buildings, canals and bridges. Our first real taste of delicious tapas was here, in a bustling group of ancient alleyways.

6. Pamplona
It's kind of difficult to summarise our time here. We were here for the famous San Fermin festival (Running of the Bulls). It was exhilarating, exhausting and entertaining. We were crushed in crowds, squeezed out of viewing spots and both fascinated and horrified by the craziness and brutality of it all. We were camping about an hour away from the action (to keep costs down) and the constant late night partying, early morning festivities and lack of sleep during the day (too hot) wore us down. We could only cope with 4 days before wearily heading off.

7. San Sebastian
Even now, 3 weeks on, this place makes me smile. Throw in equal parts relaxation, a beautiful city & beaches, the best tapas in the world and you have 2 very happy campers. We spent 5 days recuperating here. The highlight was the food - tapas, tapas & more glorious tapas. Everything from duck, pig's ears, calf cheeks, mussels, octopus, foie, scallops, chorizo, frittata, salads, risotto, gazpacho and the list goes on. This place would be a must-go destination of Spain for sure.

8. Bilbao

This was more of an administrative stop to purchase our new phone but when in Bilbao a visit to the Guggenheim is necessary. A mixture of styles, artists and historical exhibitions made 3 hours whiz by very quickly indeed. Miriam's foot started to give her some trouble - a sign of worse to come.

9. Santander
Our plan here was to use this spot as a hub for a couple of day trips. We had the good fortune to arrive at the beginning of a local tapas festival where each restaurant vies for the title of "Best Tapas". Naturally we booked a few years extra days which would satisfy our insatiable appetite for tapas and give Miriam's foot a chance to rest as it had blown up considerably and was jeapordising our entire trip!

10. Puente Viesgo
Whilst in Santander we
did 2 day trips to the "El Castillo" caves where there are ancient cave paintings of bison, horse and deer along with hand prints that are very similar to our own aboriginal art. It was a steep climb to the caves and while we were waiting for admission, we climbed further to the peak of the mountain where we had a spectacular view of the surrounding area. It was this climb that did Miriam's foot in and that night it balooned up and was very painful.

11. Santillana del Mar
This historic little town is kept in it's original form, with most cars banned and the outside of buildings unadorned with modern lights, signs and fittings. It was interesting to wander around the cobbled streets and imagine what it was like here yesteryear. We also visited the torture museum which, whilst light-hearted upon entering it, we were both soon saddened & disgusted by the pain that humans can inflict on one another. Most of the equipment was authentic which only served to worsen our horror of the place.

12. Oviedo
Because of changed plans due to Miriam's foot injury. We stayed one night in Oviedo, the capital of Asturias, a province famous for cider. Being a bit of an afficianado, Miriam was keen to try out the local brew. This is traditionally poured from a great height to produce the "fizz" as it does not contain gas. Because of the skill required, the waiters are always busy, circulating amongst the tables, pouring from above their heads to around their knees - a rather impressive feat.

13. Santiago de Composte
A very historic city, famous for hundreds of years as St James (Santiago) supposedly spent time here and is also (again supposedly) laid to rest in the magnificent cathedral. Pilgrims flock to this city, some having walked thousands of kilometres with most choosing to arrive on the 24th July to coincide with the "Feast of Saint James" day on the 25th. Tragically, not more than 30 minutes before the commencement of festivities a train entering the city derailed, killing 79 people and injuring 140. All the weeks festivities were cancelled and we therefore decided to head to.

Foot update: After resting it, it has come good again - woohoo!