Beautiful Norway (81)

Bundy, Laura and I went to Norway for the bank holiday weekend.

We flew into Oslo and had a look around the capital city. The next morning we took a very scenic train over the mountains to beautiful Bergen. From there we took a ferry up the beautiful fjords to Flam and back over the mountains to Bergen.

Crazy things about Norway include the sun was setting at 22.40 when we were in Bergen and it rose again at 04.30! Also a refreshing cold beer at a bar can cost SEVEN POUNDS!!

Bergen manhole cover

Hubbers in wooly BERGEN hat Norway

Bergen pointy houses

Boats inn Bergen harbour

Flam train

The Kiwis and friends did a 40 mile charity cycle ride in the Cotswolds

The participants were myself, Bundy, Laura and Grant on team Kiwi. Rachel was team Wallaby, Masha team Anti-Democracy and Karim and Alexia were team Baguette.

Respect to the people who did it with little or no preparation. Masha didn’t get her bike until the day before the ride and Karim and Alexia were “not told” that the ride would be 40 miles long and very hilly. As Alexia put it “Amongst our French friends we are considered the fit ones. But when we go out with you Kiwis …”

Rachel looking puffed at the top of the first big long hill

I am now a professional photographer

Recently I stumbled on this site photopreneur that offers all sorts of advice about professional photography. A day later I got another request for one of my photos on flickr and I asked for some money (normally I just give them away).

Well I have just sold this photo for ?30 a copy of the book my picture will appear in and a credit for the photograph.

Blenheim Palace

I think that officially makes me a professional photographer, although I will not be giving up the day job just yet.

Denmark is awesome

Rachel and I went to Denmark after Xmas to so a spot of sight seeing in the cold Scandinavian air.

We loved Copenhagen and the parts of (Old) Zealand that we visited. Zealand is the area north of Copenhagen and is different to the province in the Netherlands called Zeeland.

One of the things we really liked is the locals seem really honest. All over the city there are loads of bikes that are not locked to anything, In one shocking case a local left a six pack of beer on the back of the bike completely unguarded. There can’t be too many cities in the world where you could do that!

You have to love Copenhagen

They even have several beers called Carl. You can’t fault them for good judgement or taste.

Carl - the taste that refreshes

Lessons from the world cup

The main lessons that all All Blacks supporters must learn are the following

  1. Don’t count your chickens
  2. Don’t count your chickens

I think that is pretty much all of the important things.

Gripe about the quality of the tickets

When we purchased our tickets for the Cup we opted to pay the extra money and get the second best of the four categories available. This led to us getting some great seats and some pretty dismal seats. In some stadiums like Marseilles and Toulouse we had amazing seats. But in Lyon, Edinburgh and Cardiff we were stuffed up behind the goal posts on the lower levels. They were hardly the second best seats available in those stadiums as it is very difficult to understand what is going on in a game of rugby from seats like these. The root of the problem seems to be that some stadiums like Marseilles seem to have a clear understandable hierarchy of good seats and bad seats. Some other stadiums like Cardiff and Edinburgh you can end up sitting almost anywhere regardless of what you pay. My personal conspiracy theory is that this is done by home stadiums to charge away fans a premium price and still give them rubbish seats.

These pictures should show you what I mean. The first one is Marseilles and is pretty good. The last two are Cardiff and Edinburgh and the good seats are all over the place. The order of the seating quality is

  1. Pink (best)
  2. Blue
  3. Green
  4. Orange (worst)

Merseilles seating plan

Murrayfield Edinburgh seating plan

Millenium Stadium Cardiff Seating plan

This is definitely something that should be looked at for future world cups and international tests in general.

Kiwis need some bloody better songs to sing at the rugby

A lot of the time during the semi final ther was so much French singing and general noise that it felt like the game was being played in Pais. Basically the fans need to lift our game in the stands when the All Blacks need more support on the field.

Liverpool has “Never Walk Along”. England had “Swing low”. The French have at least two anthems about blood letting that they all know and sing like there is no tomorrow. These songs fill the stadium with noise and must give a hell of a lift to the players on the field. All we have is “All Blacks, clap clap, clap”?. It’s depressingly slow even compared to dirges like “Never Walk Alone” and “Swing Low and I don’t imagine it provides much emotional support for the players on the field.”

We have loads of great songs as a nation we just need to choose a few to belt out at the rugby. I have decided on the following criteria:

  1. All Kiwis must know all the words – we can work on this
  2. It must be easy to sing
  3. If must be a song where the tune is mostly held in the words
  4. It must be uniquely Kiwi and emotionally motivational

I am open to suggestions.

Russ and I are starting a Facebook group to get some discussion going on this.

Give the Japanese a go

The other Facebook group that we are starting is one backing Japan to host the Rugby World Cup after New Zealand in 2015. They have already hosted a thoroughly successful and much larger football world cup in 2002 and they deserve it. Also I would love to spend 7 weeks in Japan backpacking and getting to know the locals :)

The French have hosted an excellent World Cup

Those of us who have been to all the games agree that the French have thrown the best world cup ever. The stadiums have been sold out even for the games between small teams from far away places. The way the French have throw themselves behind the World Cup and the general atmosphere has been awesome. They even managed to convince the locals not to whistle when opposition goal kickers are taking shots at goal. Add to that the sunny weather in Southern France and the French food, French wine, not to mention the topless beach and it has been a magical few weeks in France.

If the intellectual titans at NZRFU don’t send a delegation to France to look long and hard at how the French organised this world cup then they will have missed a golden opportunity. Mind you these are the same monkeys who when they had a golden opportunity to build a brand new stadium for the World Cup in NZ in 2011 instead managed to secure temporary seating for run down old Eden Park. Not a good omen.

Unanswered questions

  1. Why did we lose to a third rate French side away from home? I am still not sure.
  2. Why do all the French smoke so much? Don’t they know it is bad for you?

That is all I have to say for now.

Romania get spanked in Toulouse

Another sunny weekend in France. Another easy game of rugby where a minnow gets swept aside. The second highlight of the game were the awesome seats we had. The 35,000 seater Stadium de Toulouse was really intimate and we had an amazing view of the game. The first and most amazing highlight was that Grant was sitting next to a quy who looked a lot like Albert Einstein. Grant who is probably the smartest in our group yelled this out to the rest of us somehow not realising that Albert Einstein was probably called Albert Einstein in France as well.

Grant and Albert Einstein

Russ continued his dominance of the pool we are running for each game. Each game we all put in five euros and try to pic the difference between the scores. Phil was the early leader but now it looks like Russ is in charge. Since running a pool often ends up with some of us loudly supporting the other side we have decided not to have any pools on All Black matches during the knock out stages as it might create bad fan karma.

russ claims his winnings

After the game we watched the Wales v Fiji game in a park beside the river that runs through Toulouse. The locals had set up a huge outdoor screen and bars, bbqs etc and it was a fantastic atmosphere. The game was so good I would recommend it to people who have never watched rugby before to get them into the sport. By the end when Fiji scored the winning try there were hundreds of people on their feet cheering for the gutsy Pacific Islanders. The handful of Welsh present must have felt very alone.

The usual partying ensued for the remainder of the weekend.

Glasgow and Edinburgh

This weekend we decided to fly up to Glasgow on Saturday morning and have a night out there and train down to the match in Edinburgh on Sunday morning.

Whilst waiting for our plane at Gatwick we were approached by two security guards who wanted to know why we were wearing orange overalls. They left us alone when we explained that we were idiots from New Zealand who thought it would be fun to dress in bright orange overalls for the entire world cup. Later on we are asked the same question by two police officers armed with machine guns.

The rugby highlight of the weekend was the huge performance minnows Tonga put in against the lacklustre South Africans. Tonga gave the Saffas the shock of a life time and were still in the game at half time. The Saffas brought on all the big guns they were hoping to rest just after the second half and they had an immediate impact. The plucky Tongans never gave up and at the final whistle were just five points short of the greatest rugby upset of all time.

Following the game we toured the city and took in a few of the local bars until 4am. Surprisingly we were only refused entry to one location because of our bright orange overalls. The tour included a stop a Primark where I came up with the idea of a game where we could dress each other in anything we liked for a maximum price of five pounds. I thought this was another brilliant idea of mine until all the rest of the boys headed straight for the women’s department and we all spent the remainder of the afternoon looking like colour blind lunatics from the institute or cross-dressing alcoholics.

Primark gone horribly wrong

The most famous person we ran into this week was Will Mellor from “Two Pints of Larger and a Packet of Crisps”

The boys with Will Mellor from

Sunday morning we took the train to Edinburgh for our biggest match so far. Scotland’s fielded a second string side as they rested their top players for their all important clash with Italy in next weekends final round of the pool competition. The winner of the Scotland/Italy clash will progress to the knock out rounds. The loser will go home in humiliations. Despite racking up 40 points the All Blacks looked rusty with at least two other tries getting dropped and Carter missing half his kicks at goal.

After the game we went to Edinburgh airport for our flight to London. We unexpectedly ran into the All Blacks who we think were flying to Marseilles. I didn’t speak to any of them of course because even though I am 3 years older than the oldest All Black I still feel like an unworthy child around sporting superheroes. It was well cool to see them up close though and the whole airport stopped to stare at them.

Lyon Black

Lyon is a beautiful city in southern France with two wide rivers running through it. At nearly 30 degrees centigrade the weather was absolutely spot on for a touch of outdoor beer drinking and talking about rugby.

Pont Wilson, Lyon

The game was the walk over everyone thought it would be with the All Blacks scoring 11 tries against Portugal, the 22nd ranked team in the world. The atmosphere in the stadium was awesome at the vocal Portuguese fans cheered all the way up to the final whistle. Later on that night we saw loads of them in local bars and they seemed pretty stoked by the days events despite the claims by some reporters that such obvious mismatches have no place in the world cup.

After the game Phil and I were interview by TVNZ. His overly verbose comments on the match were left on the cutting room floor while my more succinct analysis hit the chord with the reporter and were aired on New Zealand television :)

We were also lucky enough to run into New Zealand’s record break number 10 Andrew Merhtens. He was really friendly and posed for photographs but had to dash off as he was helping TV3 with their television coverage.

The team wih the General, ANDREW PHILIP MEHRTENS

Dinner was in a restaurant called carnivores with a couple of Jo’s English friend who live in Lyon. Later that night we ended up in a small bar with a live rock cover band. They were awesome and we moshed so hard most of us would have sore calve muscles well into the following week.

The boys rocking in Lyon

Sunday morning started like a lot of Sunday mornings. Slowly with no loud noises and lots of rehydration.

We walked back to the river to have breakfast on a riverboat only to find the boat closed and a huge farmers market going on. Being the flexible opportunists that we are we bought as much food as out eyes thought we could eat and had a massive picnic by the river.

Later in the day we spent two whole hours renting bikes from the local bike rental scheme. The local government in Lyon have hundreds of computerised cycle racks and thousands of bike spread all over the city. The idea is that anyone can purchase a card from the machine by the bike racks and then swipe the card at any machine and grab a bike. The amount you are charged depends on how long it takes you to get the bike back into another rack. Journeys under thirty minutes are free. We had a few problems using the scheme as it was entirely in French. Also loads of the bikes didn’t work or the machines that isues them didn’t work. There were also long queues so the whole process took us four hours to get four bikes. Once we had the bike we immediately proceeded to push our bikes about a kilometre up the steepest hill in town. As the most vocal advocate of the bike ride and as I had loudly talked up how easy it would be, I copped a lot of flak for getting off my bike 50 meters into the hill climb covered in sweat and ready to collapse. The hard work was worth it to see the beautiful church and for the awesome ride down where I totally made my bike belch thick blue smoke from the breaks.

Amazing rental bike scheme in Lyon

Off to Lyon

Lyon Weather
Tonight I am off to Lyon for a sunny weekend in France watching the All Blacks crush non-professional minnows Portugal. It’s going to be a cricket score :D

One thing I forgot to mention last week is that I invented a brand new drink that you might like to try. It’s an espresso with THREE shots in it. I am going to call it the Hubster (unless anyone can think of anything better) but until the name catches on just call it a “triple-espresso” and make sure you tell the waiter the drinks real name.