Day One: We Arrived
After two very long flights including a stop over in Abu Dhabi, Joh (my plus one) and I were very excited to finally arrive in London. We were fortunate that PokitPal allowed us to extend our stay in the United Kingdom to make the most of this amazing opportunity.
At London Heathrow airport we met our driver who drove like a mad man through the busy city streets to our hotel, located just a short walk from the North side of Hyde Park. Although it was still very bright outside, it was 10pm in England and we fell asleep almost immediately after check-in.
Day Two: Buckingham Palace, Marble Arch and MnM World
The sun shined through our hotel window at some ridiculous hour of the morning awakening both Joh and I who were very keen to start exploring the city. After shoveling down some croissants and yoghurt at breakfast, we raced outside into the surprisingly warm summer’s morning, and jumped on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour bus hosted by ‘The Original Tour.’ Our first stop was Marble Arch. We learnt that Marble Arch, now situated on a corner of Hyde Park, was originally the entrance to Buckingham Palace. It was built for Queen Victoria but it said that she didn’t like the design of it, so she had a carriage built too wide to fit through the arch, forcing it to be removed from the palace entrance.
After viewing the arch, we took a walk through Hyde Park and visited the Animal War Memorial, dedicated to all those animals that served or belonged to soldiers who served during World War I and II. There was a statue of a dog, a horse and there was even a glowworm that was carved into the memorial.
Next stop was our future home (in our dreams), Buckingham Palace. There was an enormous crowd gathered to spectate the ‘Changing of the Guards Ceremony,’ which happens at 11am each day. A few weeks earlier we saw a YouTube video of a tourist being barged over by the parade of guards so we were sure to stay clear of their path. While we were at the palace, we visited The Mews where the Royal Cars (mostly Rolls Royce), Royal Carriages and horses are kept.
When we got hungry for lunch, we made our way to Oxford Street for food and shopping. We were surprised how hot summer days in England were and I needed to purchase some summer clothes (was the excuse that I gave Joh so we could go shopping). Along Oxford Street we came across MnM World, and no one passes by MnM World without going inside their four-story building.
Day Three: River Thames Cruise, Tower of London and The London Eye
On our third day in London, we again woke up early with excitement. There are so many things to see and do in this massive city that we didn’t want to waste any daylight hours (which seemed to be about 20 hours a day). We caught a ferry from The Elizabeth Tower, formerly The Clock Tower which inside holds Big Ben, down the River Thames. The cruise passed under London Bridge and the Tower Bridge to the Tower of London.
Joh and I then spent the rest of the day in the Tower of London. Both of us were pleasantly surprised at how interesting we found the history behind the tower. In previous years, it has had a variety of uses ranging from being a prison where it held some of Henry the VIII’s wives before their executions, to being used as a zoo. Today however, it is where the Crown Jewels of the Royal Family are kept.
In the evening we took a flight on The London Eye. We witnessed beautiful panoramic views of the city, and were even able to point out some of the places that we had visited.
Day Four: Exploring Whitechapel
Our last day in London was spent at Petticoat Lane Markets in Whitechapel. It was interesting to compare London markets to those in Australia, in particular our local Carrara Markets. The indoor section was filled with artwork and new clothing, made from local and upcoming designers. On the street, stalls included cheap and imported clothes, toys and other goods.
In the evening Joh and I went on a ‘Jack the Ripper’ walking tour. We were taken around the streets of Whitechapel visiting the murder sites of his victims and the pubs that he was likely to frequent. Our tour guide was very informative and knowledgeable about the life and times of Jack the Ripper. He pointed out errors made in movies that attempted to recreate the tale. The tour guide also noted flaws in many of the theories of the identity of Jack the Ripper.
Day Five: Paris Bound
Another early start to the day, this time checking out of our hotel in London and catching the tube to St. Pancras International Train Station where we took the 9am Eurostar Train under the English Channel to Paris, France. We travelled passed beautiful French countryside and farms until we hit the busy Paris Nord train station.
From there we attempted to navigate our way to our hotel, struggling with how very little French we know. I let Joh do the navigating, as he seemed to have a much better sense of direction than myself. After check-in we had a little afternoon nap, before eating baguettes for lunch at a nearby restaurant. We wandered the streets around our hotel, which was probably not a major tourist attraction area compared to other parts of the city. We enjoyed observing the different culture and way of life of people living in France.
Day Six: Champs Élysées, Arc de Triumph and the Seine River cruise
Today we rode the ‘L’OpenTour’ hop-on, hop-off tour bus around the Paris. Joh and I got off the bus to walk 1.9km along the busy Champs Élysées street, to the Arc de Triumph at the end of the road. The arc stands in the middle of a round about, which is supposed to be seven unmarked lanes wide. The traffic that travels around this round about is crazy. Neither Joh or I could figure out the rules of this round about but somehow we never witnessed any crashes. Although Joh and I aren’t experts on art, we could appreciate the detail of the carvings in The Arc de Triumph.
In the late afternoon, we took an hour long cruise down the Siene River, departing from in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Day Seven: Climbing the Eiffel Tower
Like every good tourist of Paris, we climbed the Eiffel Tower. Feeling energetic, Joh and I decided to take the stairs to the second floor. When we made it we weren’t sure if we were tired from the climb or the views were just breath taking. The elevator took us the rest of the way to the top of the tower, where we could see to the far suburbs of the city. It was amazing to witness the layout of Paris, and compare it to the layout of London that was saw from the London Eye. We learnt that the Eiffel Tower was built for the World Fair and was supposed to be taken down after the fair had ended. It has since become a landmark of Paris. We also ate macaroons on top of the Eiffel Tower, just to really fit in.
Day Eight: Scotland Bound
Today we were up before the sun. We quickly packed our backs, left our key card at reception, and ran with our suitcases through the empty Paris streets to the train station. We caught an early train back to London where we would then fly to Scotland. What we didn’t realize until we arrived in London, is that the tube wasn’t in use due to a strike. I started to stress with only 3 hours to find our way to the airport. The line for a cab at the train station was at least one hundred people long, and the bus lines were almost as bad. Starting to panic, we decided to check for a cab rank that wasn’t at busy train station. Luckily enough we came past a small store that booked us the last Mini Cab available for the day. They put a rush on it, and it almost cost us an arm and a leg (due to increased prices because of the strike) but most importantly we made it to our flight on time.
That evening we caught a bus to T in the Park where we popped up our efficient tent and waited for the partying to begin.
Day Nine: T in the Park Part 1
We woke up pretty late from being tired from the day before, luckily for us though 30 minutes before The Wombats were playing. It was a great way to start the festival because we were looking forward to them since we found out we won the trip and they played all of our favourite songs too. After The Wombats we ran halfway across the festival grounds to see Duke Dumont in the ‘Wah Wah Tent’, a kind of indoor DJ setup with a killer lightshow. It was a tough call between David Guetta and Kasabian to finish the day off though, but we went with Guetta.
Unfortunately it started to lightly rain just before the set and by the end was pouring down, it didn’t matter so much during the show but on the walk back to the tent everything was so muddy. Our tent didn’t stand up to the rain well either, but we were so knackered we didn’t mind. Duke Dumont came in as favourite for that day with the Wombats and David Guetta tying for second.
Day 10: T in the Park Part 2
After yesterday’s rain the whole festival site was covered in mud, including us. We woke up early to find some food and went back to the tent to make up our minds as to who we wanted to see that day. We started off with circa waves followed by Charli XCX and Labirinth at the same time, so we had to rush across the festival to catch half of both. The Script was a long-time favourite of ours so we had to see them and luckily Alt-J slotted between the Script and Avicii. Lucky we brought our rain coats or we would have been absolutely drenched from the day. Our spirits were a little bit down from the weather but avicii brought them right back up. We then made our way through the mud once again to our temporal home, but we discovered that some other festival goers had set up camp near on top of us, which was a minor inconvenience.
Day 11: T in the Park Part 3
We were pretty knackered and dirty by this point in time and there weren’t any showers we could access without paying 40 pounds (just a bit more than $80) each. We spend most of the day at the VIP section in the bar in the downtimes between bands we wanted to see, but by fair the ones we looked forward to most were the Prodigy and Modest Mouse.
Prodigy, modest mouse,
Day 12: Edinburg Bound
Joh and I, now two very tired campers, were grateful to get to Paradise Palms where we had a hot shower and a bed to sleep in. Our room at Paradise Palms was cozy and had a very homely feel about it. The staff at the bar downstairs were very nice and assisted us with whatever we needed including delicious popcorn chicken and cocktails (our favourite was the Long Island Iced Tea served in little tea cups). The bar was trendy and nothing like what you would find on the Gold Coast in Australia. There were fairy lights, Hawaiian shirts and lanterns hanging from the ceiling and the atmosphere inside felt very warm and welcoming, just what was needed on a gloomy Scottish day.
At night, we went on a Ghosts and Witches Walking Tour where we followed two tour guides who were dressed in costume, around the streets of Edinburg. We learnt a lot of history about the city, including information on ‘The Witch Trials’ that took place.
Day 13: Loch Ness
We had a big day planned ahead of us today. We had booked a 12 hour day tour to take us to Loch Ness, to see if we could spot the Loch Ness Monster. The bus trip to Loch Ness was approximately 4.5 hours but we had a few stops along the way. On the way to the Loch, we stopped at the three sisters. Our tour guide taught us about the highlanders who used to live in these mountains and the battles that used to take place at the bottom of the hills.
When we arrived at Loch Ness, we noticed that the water is almost black in colour. Apparently this is due to a naturally occurring mineral called Peat, which is collected in the water as it runs down the mountains and into the Loch. Unfortunately we didn’t see Nessy (the Loch Ness Monster), and our only thing close to him was the sticker on the window of our boat. It is said that the Loch could hold the Earth’s population three times over, so no wonder we suspect there is a creature hiding in the depths.
Day 14: Edinburgh Castle
We didn’t plan much for this day, it was supposed to be our rest day before spending 26 hours in transit to get home, but it was also our last day in Scotland, so we decided it would be worthwhile squeezing in a few more landmarks.; we both decided we wanted to see Edinburg Castle the most. Similarly to the Tower of London, Edinburg Castle holds a lot of history and has served many purposes throughout time.
The Crown of Scotland was housed there as well as the Stone of Destiny, an important artefact used by the royal family during the coronation. Inside the castle was a museum dedicated to the services of the armed forces of Brittan through the years. On our way back from the castle we happened to walk past a stuffed puppy in a shop window, which was too adorable not to adopt. So Joh insisted on buying it for me, and we named it Ashe.
Day 15: Home
After almost missing a flight and spending 7 hours with an unhappy baby we finally made it home to our families who were eagerly awaiting photos and stories from our trip, and we enjoyed our first home cooked meals in weeks. Something about camping in the mud and a long haul flight made our beds especially comfy, and we promptly fell asleep.
This trip was definitely a once in a life time opportunity and I’m still in a little bit of disbelieve that we won it. A huge thanks to PokitPal for providing the opportunity for us to go all the way to Europe. Everything was so well organised and handled by Fraser Duddy and Lara Mieszkuc from PokitPal. I would also like to thank Colette Baptie from T in the Park for providing PokitPal with the festival camping tickets so we could see some of our favourite bands. Another thank-you goes to Trystan O’Brien from Paradise Palms, who provided us with accommodation in Scotland and great drinks. It was such a fun holiday; we’re definitely going to be recommending PokitPal to all of our friends very highly.