Looking for tickets or info for the Get Happy Tour 2018 featuring Bowling for Soup, Army of Freshmen and The Aquabats?

This domain name was used for the Get Happy Tour back in its original run around 10 years ago, when I used to do work for BFS and AOF. However, for the past 5 years it has been used for my travel blog as I never thought we would have another Get Happy Tour and I didn't want it to go to waste.

But as a favour to two bands who have done a lot for me over the years, and so you don't miss out, ticket info is:
O2 Presale: 10am on 25 September
General Onsale: 10am on 27 September.

Tickets available from ticketmaster.co.uk and bowlingforsoup.com
 


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Posts Tagged ‘Tour’

A long day in Kiev

June 18th, 2013 No comments

After a great buffet breakfast this morning we all met downstairs in the hotel lobby ready to head out for our tour of Kiev. Our first stop was St Michael’s Monastery, which is one of the sights you see in all the photos of Kiev, and within a few minutes of entering I was sorry that I had forgotten to pack sun cream in my bag for the day. It’s very hot out today! The grounds of the monastery are lovely and we spent some time looking around the grounds within the walls being told all about the history of the location. After looking around the grounds we entered the Cathedral that’s within the complex and were presented with some beautiful sights – many, many lovely statues, murals, paintings and photo opportunities including monks praying. However we weren’t allowed to take photos inside the building which was a shame – some of our group did but I didn’t want to break the rules.

Statues in Kiev

Statues outside the Cathedral

St Michael's Cathedral

St Michael’s Cathedral

Outside the monastery there is a memorial board to the Ukrainian Genocide outside in both English and Ukrainian so after visiting the complex we were given some information about the events that were committed. I must admit the Ukrainian Genocide isn’t an event that I had heard about but it was very shocking to hear about and brought back sad memories of visiting the Rwanda Genocide Memorial a few years ago. We also saw the statue of Princess Olga in the square before heading down the road, past the British Embassy, to St Andrew’s Church.

We didn’t have the opportunity to see inside St Andrew’s Church unfortunately as it wasn’t on the itinerary but one thing you notice when visiting old Soviet countries is how beautifully decorated and ornate the religious buildings are. The care and skill that must have gone into the domes and the ornate work on the outside almost puts some of the buildings in the west to shame!

Memorial to the Ukrainian Genocide

Memorial to the Ukrainian Genocide

St Andrew's

St Andrew’s Cathedral

In the UK for the past week it has been quite cold so it’s been a nice relief to have full summer weather while in Kiev – I believe the temperature today was above 30. However by the time we reached the area of St Andrew’s Church the heat was starting to get to us and we had all mostly run out of water. Luckily this area is tourist central so in addition to tens of souvenir stalls there are also stalls where you can by snacks and refrigerated drinks. We stocked up on a couple of litres of water each and then made our way towards the National Museum of Ukraine.

The museum was another sight which unfortunately wasn’t on our list of places we were due to visit but our guide wanted to take us here to show us some old hieroglyphs that had been engraved into some stone slabs in the museum grounds, and also to allow us to see a good view over the city. I’m glad she brought us here as it was a good view.

Walking around Kiev

Walking around the museum grounds

Hieroglyphs

Ancient Hieroglyphs in Kiev

The old Linden Tree

The old Linden Tree

We spent a little time in the museum grounds enjoying the sunshine before it was time to head back to our minibus to head down to the Chernobyl Museum. On the way we stopped at a very old Linden Tree which is described by legend as the oldest tree in Kiev. The age of the tree seems to vary depending on which account you read but you could tell it was indeed very ancient.

The Chernobyl Museum was a very moving experience. It meant even more as we are due to visit Chernobyl tomorrow but I highly recommend a visit here to anybody that travels to Kiev. The museum itself is fairly cheap to enter, although it was included in our tour, and we had to pay an extra token payment to be allowed to take photos. All of the exhibits are in Ukrainian, as was the tour we were given, but our guide translated everything for us. We spent some time looking at the museum and saw so many exhibits detailing the history of the plant, the build-up to the accident, information about the accident itself, the aftermath and the cleanup process. We also saw a lot of personal items belonging to the people that were first on the scene including radiation suits, uniforms, posthumously-given medals, letters home to families and much more. I can’t recommend this place high enough if you are in any way curious about learning more about the disaster.

Chernobyl Trucks

Trucks outside the Chernobyl Museum

Chernobyl Medals

Medals given to the people who died trying to contain Chernobyl

Inside the Chernobyl Museum

Inside the Chernobyl Museum

Lost towns

Signs for the towns lost after Chernobyl

Mutant

Mutated animal

Lunch time!

Lunch in Kiev

The museum seems a little hidden away as it’s down a side road in the old town so make sure you know where you’re going before trying to find it – or just ask a local! We relaxed outside the museum for a bit before being taken to lunch in a very surreal restaurant (translation of the name is moonshine) which sounded as though it was full of budgies! The food was nice but very weird, as were the drinks, but I enjoyed the atmosphere.

Kiev is famous for the Cave Monastery and this was our next stop of the day. After arriving, and drinking most of the water that we had bought by this point, we were informed that regulations meant we had to have a guide from the monastery show us around so we waited for a little while and took photos. The guide that arrived was a very friendly person who spoke perfect English but you could tell everything she said was scripted compared to most tour guides who give you a personal experience. For example the phrase “please take note of the magnificent stone work on the opposing side of the church”.

We were shown around quite a few buildings in the monastery including an old church, an old church bell, a cathedral and several other sites, the names of which I can’t remember, before our tour ended at an amazing viewpoint overlooking Kiev. By this time our brains were in overload – partly because of the heat of the day and partly due to the monotonous script that we had been told for over an hour. Don’t get me wrong the guide was very knowledgeable and the guided tour was well worth it but we were glad to be able to move on to the caves on our own.

The caves that form part of the monastic complex are famous for housing the mummified remains of monks, saints and other people of note from the history of the monastery in or very close to the caved rooms where they lived their lives. To be able to enter you have to hold a candle between your first and second fingers, with the palm facing up, and women must either wear dresses or the robes provided. It’s also advisable that you aren’t claustrophobic due to the cramped conditions although when you’re inside you really get a sense of how isolated the monks must have felt living in the caves for their whole lives away from the sun. As a result of their devotion the caves are a sight of pilgrimage for many so the crowds can sometimes build up. We were fairly lucky when we toured as the crowds were fairly low.

Cave Monastery

Walking around the Cave Monastery complex

Kiev

A view of Kiev from the Cave Monastery

Monastery grounds

The grounds of the Cave Monastery

We were all fairly exhausted by the time the tour of the monastic complex was over but there was still one more sight to see – the Great Patriotic War Museum. The Great Patriotic War is better known as World War 2 in the west but it is known by this term in Ukraine due to the struggle against the oppression of the Ukrainian way of life that formed the major battle in this part of Europe.

The museum is away from the roads and next to the big statue that you can see from all over the city so it was a bit of a walk to get to. On the way we walked past the Afghan War Museum and their outdoor exhibits that included tanks, rocket launchers and helicopters before passing sculptures depicting the struggle to defend the Ukrainian way of life which reminded me of some of the sights I saw in Pyongyang a few years ago.

According to our guide tomorrow is the passing out day for the local military cadets so in the parade ground directly outside the museum we were treated to a sight of hundreds of smartly dressed and uniformed soldiers getting ready for a dress rehearsal for the ceremony.

The war museum housed a wealth of artefacts from all aspects of World War 2 and our guide was incredibly informative in telling us everything that we needed to know. Until today I had never visited a World War 2 museum, unless you count Anne Frank’s House, and so some of the things I saw were a bit of a shock. In addition to the usual military hardware we also saw gallows from a concentration camp, gloves made out of human skin, a bone crushing machine and clothing of people that were executed by the Nazi regime. It was a very moving experience and our guide was incredibly knowledgeable about every aspect of the war but unfortunately we only had time to see about 2/3 of the rooms in detail before the museum closed and we had to leave. It’s a shame we didn’t have a chance to spend more time there as it was huge and incredibly well presented – make sure you visit when in the city or you’ll miss out on something special, in a sombre way.

Kiev Motherland Monument

The Motherland Monument

The Great Patriotic War Museum

The exterial of the Great Patriotic War Museum

Flamethrower

A flamethrower at the museum

A Bone Crusher

A bone crusher at the museum

A careful squeeze around the outside of the military parade and it was back to the minibus for the ride back to our hotel for a rest and shower. Earlier on in the day a few of us decided that we were going to head into town to have a meal together but unfortunately it took us a long time to find anywhere that was suitable to eat – everything was either overpriced or generic TGI Fridays etc. After probably 45 minutes of looking around we ended up wandering up a side road off Khreshcatyck Street where we found a lovely Bavarian restaurant which served everything from German beer to Schnitzel and even Apple Strudel. I ordered Chicken with Almond Sauce followed by the strudel and it was absolutely beautiful so hopefully we’ll be back here again later on in the trip after getting back from Chernobyl.

Dinner in Kiev

“Chicken under the Almond Sauce”

I finished the meal off with a Tequila Sunrise before saying goodbye to the group and wandering around the city for my own taking in the atmosphere for a bit. I like the support of being in a group while travelling but I also need the freedom of being able to explore and do my own thing so spent maybe an hour walking around taking photos, sitting in the square with a drink and generally people watching before making my way back to the hotel.

A few people were still in the bar so I had a quick drink with them before returning to my room. It’s pretty late now and we’re due to head off to Chernobyl at 8.30 tomorrow so hopefully I’ll sleep well.

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My North Korea blog is now public

December 28th, 2012 No comments

A couple of years ago I went on a trip to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (aka DPRK / North Korea). It was probably one of the most unique trips I have ever been on due to the nature of travel in the country – only a select number of people can visit each year and visitors follow an itinerary that has been authorised in advance, must stay with their guides and are not allowed to leave their hotel unescorted.

This may not seem like the type of trip I would enjoy, due to my love of getting off of the tourist trail and getting under the skin of a country on adventure tours, but I found it a very worthwhile trip. When I travel I like to learn as much as I can and open myself up to new ideas and I thought it was very important to see the country for myself instead of just read and accept what the media  tell us. I also like to visit unique destinations that nobody else I know has visited, that are off of the usual tourist trail, and the DPRK definitely fits that. I am glad I went on the trip and feel that I was able to learn a lot.

Until now my travel blog has been kept private on here to respect the privacy of my guides. I was given permission by my tour company to post information about the trip on my blog as long as I did not talk about the guides or show them in my photos to respect their privacy. I decided, on my own, to initially keep the blog password protected to add an additional level of privacy for my guides. However now that two years have passed, and the country is now under the guidance of Kim Jong-Un after the death of his father Kim Jong-Il who was the leader during my visit, I feel that it is important to share my experiences with others so they can make an informed decision if they are thinking about travelling to this unique destination.

I highly recommend a trip to the DPRK if you are looking for a unique, cultural trip to a country with a lot of history as long as you are willing to respect the culture of Korea and the rules of the trip. If you book a trip to the country you will be told a little about the DPRK and given a few rules about conduct during your visit and please follow these not only to respect the culture of the country but also to respect your guides.

The blog can be found by clicking here, or by clicking the “2010 China & North Korea” link in the menu, but to get you started here is a photo from my trip.

The Kim il-Sung Statue

The Kim il-Sung Statue

Some of the things that I saw on my trip (for the benefit of search engines) were:

  • Pyongyang
  • Kim il-Sung Statue
  • Juche Tower
  • Taedong River
  • USS Pueblo
  • Yanggakdo Hotel
  • Arirang Mass Games
  • West Sea Barrage at Nampo
  • International Friendship Exhibition at Mount Myohyang
  • Sariwon
  • Kaesong
  • DMZ (De-Militarized Zone) at Panmunjeon
  • South Korea
  • Train to Beijing

(Please note – I have been given permission to include details of my trip on my blog by the tour company but the names of my guides as well as photos of them have left out to respect their privacy. It is forbidden for journalists to visit The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on a tourist visa and it is forbidden for us to publish information about our trip in any capacity without permission. As a result I do NOT give permission for anything I write about North Korea in this blog, or any photos I upload of North Korea, to be used anywhere for any purpose other than reading directly on my blog if you are considering travelling to North Korea as a tourist. In addition I do NOT give permission for my name, my blog’s address, or any photos of me to be used or quoted anywhere for any purpose related to The DPRK. If you breach this notice you will be subject to legal action from the tour company. Thank you for your understanding.

If you feel that the post / page containing this notice breaches any regulations or if it contains any information or photos which should be changed or removed to respect the rules of the tour company or the traditions of The DPRK please let me know ASAP so I can fix the problem.)

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Within Temptation Concert

April 14th, 2012 No comments

This morning I had breakfast before making my way into the city to meet my friend Jonathan who lives near Amsterdam. I’ve known him for years but we’ve hardly met so while I was in Holland, even though it wasn’t the same city, we made sure we met up.

We met at Dam Square before exploring the city, having a few coffees and then ending up at a cafe on top of a tower overlooking the city which had some great views. It was great to chat for a while and catch up on things while seeing more of the city but it was soon time to make my way back to the hotel to meet up with my friends ready for the Within Temptation theatre show.

Dam Square

On my way to meet Jonathan in Dam Square

There was no need to arrive early as this show was seated but we left in plenty of time to make sure we found the venue and so that we could chill with some drinks at the bar. After purchasing some merch we made our way up to the first floor where there was a bar with a great balcony ovelooking the city. I decided to be classy with some rose wine while the others had other drinks.

The first half of the show was a slower, acoustic gig comprised of rarely played songs with a video background which was great as I’ve only ever seen full sets from Within Temptation. There was a storyline that followed the specially filmed video which made the theatre tour extra special compared to your average show. It was also very civilised with everybody sitting in their seats clapping after every song compared to the usual cheering and rock hands. After the first half there was an intermission and time for a few more drinks on the balcony.

Ant with drinks

Ant on the theatre balcony

Me befor the concert

Me with a Rose wine

Before the show

Inside the theatre

Within Temptation

Within Tempatation – part 1

Within Temptation Part 1

Within Temptation Part 1

Within Temptation

Within Temptation – part 1

As soon as the second half started everybody stood up and rushed forward although this wasn’t really an option for us on the balcony. The second half was a full band show playing many new songs along with a selection of hits from the past. It was such a great show, with such good energy, and at the end we all stood up and gave a very long standing ovation.

Setlist Part 1
The Last Dance
Bittersweet
Overcome
Restless
Sounds of Freedom
Our Farewell
The Swan Song
Say My Name
Never-Ending Story

Setlist Part 2
The Promise
Ice Queen
Caged
Iron
Lost
Faster
Stand My Ground
Mother Earth

Encore
Sinéad
Stairway to the Skies

Within Tempation

Part 2 of the show was full band

The end of the show

Within Temptation saying goodbye

The theatre

The theatre after the show

We were all pretty exhausted by the end of the show so we slowly made our way back to our hotel. The most direct way was straight through the red light district and it was quite an eye opener as this was the first time we had been there at night.

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Nightwish Concert

April 13th, 2012 No comments

I’m back in the hotel now after a really great Nightwish gig and am completely exhausted but it has been such a great day.

I rose early and headed out to the venue before my friends were awake as some people I was due to meet were already at the venue from the early hours. The journey was fairly quick and after arriving at the venue some time between 8am and 9am I met my online friends and settled down ready for a long day of queuing.

There’s not much to report from the 10 hours in the queue. It was mainly good weather to start with so we took some time to enjoy the sun, walk around the venue perimeter, grab some snacks etc but as the day progressed the weather got worse. At one point it was raining quite heavily so the poncho I brought with me came in handy. The queue was split into two and the other side of the queue cheated and hid under this.

Hiding from the rain

Some of the queue hiding from the rain under a plastic sheet

Ajax Stadium

The HMH was next to the Ajax Stadium

Over the course of the day I met quite a few new people which helped pass the time and, as we had all queued there for a long time, we were all like minded. This was evident when it got close to doors and we all just wanted to get inside to secure our place on the barrier. When that time came we all ran (except past the security guards) straight into the venue and secured our places. I was lucky enough to get a place next to the people I had met and almost central on the barrier.

Squealing Pig!

Me, Fiona and Squealing Pig

Squealing Pig!

Squealing Pig!

Fiona sleeping

Fiona sleeping outside the HMH

Eklipse were the first band on stage and played mainly covers on violins etc. They were ok but nothing special. Battle Beast were next and I was really impressed with their singer although they weren’t my sort of music. Then there was a tense wait while the set was changed over for Nightwish – this included the dropping of a huge material screen to create an effect when the band came on.

Eklipse

Eklipse opening for Nightwish

Battle Beast

Battle Beast were next in line

Before Nightwish came on

Before Nightwish came on

The Curtain

The pre-Nightwish curtain

Nightwish were great – the new album combined with the pyro combined created a great atmosphere. The show started with Marco in a rocking chair behind the large screen and then burst into songs from the new album. There was a lot of pyro and a lot of energy but this was split into two with a quieter acoustic section in the middle.

The setlist
Taikatalvi
Storytime
Wish I Had an Angel
Amaranth
Scaretale
Slow, Love, Slow
I Want My Tears Back
Come Cover Me
The Crow, the Owl and the Dove
The Islander
Nemo
Last of the Wilds
Planet Hell
Ghost River
Dead to the World
Over the Hills and Far Away

Encore
Finlandia
Song of Myself
Last Ride of the Day
Imaginaerum

Here’s a selection of my best photos from the concert.

Nightwish

Marco Hietala

Nightwish

Nightwish

PYRO!!

Nightwish and some pyro!

Nightwish

Nightwish

Nightwish Pyro

Nightwish Pyro!

Tuomas the maestro

Tuomas Holopainen

The end of the show

Nightwish saying goodbye

Absolute chaos trying to buy merchandise but after buying a t-shirt and a flag I made my way outside to meet my friends.

Tomorrow I’m starting the day by meeting an old friend of mine that lives not far from Amsterdam before seeing Within Temptation play a theatre show in the city.

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Touring has been keeping me busy

June 18th, 2007 No comments

I’m in Australia! Today I went on a really long tour that look almost 8 hours and we saw everything in the area around Cairns, but that’s not all I’ve been doing.

After my last post I decided I had to get new shoes on my last day in Singapore as after disintegrating my old ones were hurting my feet too much. First I sat down for breakfast which was only a simple buffet but consisted of things I wouldn’t have thought about for breakfast normally – chicken sausages, rice etc. It was nice to just relax in the morning sun with a filling breakfast and orange juice before walking a few minutes down to the shopping centre. It was a fairly small shopping centre but had a few outdoors shops with good walking shoes in. I figured at least these would survive the heat!

The rest of that day was mainly spent relaxing, walking around the area near the hotel and watching a bit of TV. I had been watching all of the Jurassic Park films which had been on TV every night since arriving but decided to sample some Asian programming before heading off to Australia. One thing I watched was this weird family swap show with a difference – they swapped kids from different backgrounds (Malaysian and Indonesian in this case) to let them experience new things and even though it’s not my sort of show I really enjoyed it.

Later in the day I checked out of the hotel and transferred to Changi Airport for my late evening flight to Cairns via Darwin. The flight itself was smooth. They served an Asian Curry with rice for dinner and was good considering it was airline food! We stopped at Darwin in the early hours of the morning to refuel the plane and let a few passengers off although most of us were continuing to Cairns so were kept in a transit lounge with a cafe while all this took place. I relaxed with a mocha before re-boarding the plane.

Sunrise over the Australian Outback was amazing. Such lovely scenery it’s hard to describe so I’ll just show you with one of the photos I took. I had my iPod on random and it played Avril Lavigne – “Nobody’s Home” at about this point which, while random, added to the atmosphere.

Sunrise

Sunrise

Our flight arrived at 7am into Cairns and after clearing customs I made my way out to the pickup point to wait for my minibus to my hotel – The Cairns Colonial Club. It never turned up though so I made my way there by taxi. Even though it wasn’t even 9am when I arrived they let me check in to my room as they weren’t busy. The service at these hotels has been great so far! After checking in I took the hotel bus into the city to get lunch, explore and take some photos. Lunch was at an Italian restaurant near the beach and after letting my meal sink down I walked along the Cairns Promenade up towards the airport, as recommended by my guide book, before cutting in past the Centenary Lakes towards my hotel. Unfortunately half of the roads weren’t signposted and by the time I found the hotel the heavens had opened and I got soaked, much to the amusement of a group of Aussie teenagers who drove past me. I spent the rest of the evening relaxing in preparation for the long day I knew was ahead of me today.

Cairns Promenade

Cairns Promenade

The sea near Cairns

The sea near Cairns

The next morning I was picked up from the hotel at around 745 by a minibus driver for my tour around the area. After managing to throw loads of money at him while looking for a dollar for the fuel surcharge I got on the minibus and we set off into the rainforest. On the way I got talking to the others and I think everybody else on the minibus was Australian – mainly older people but there was one woman that was there with her daughter who I talked to quite a lot throughout the day.

We saw a LOT of things throughout the day today. We started off by visiting Heale’s Lookout for some good photo opportunities where we were posed the question by our driver “what is the difference between a lookout and an outlook?” (the answer by the way is a lookout is more of a peninsula than an outlook, which is just an area with good views). After the lookout we made our way to Lake Barrine for tea and scones, a nature walk and then a cruise around the crater lake. We were told lots about the area while on the boat and took some good photos including one of a huge snake that was sunbathing on a branch. My first piece of Aussie wildlife!

Heale's Outlook

Heale’s Outlook

Tour Bus

Tour Bus

Lake Barrine

Lake Barrine

Cruise on the lake

Cruise on the lake

Next stop was the Giant Curtain Fig Tree which is a fig tree that was living off of a huge tree that has created an impressive canopy effect. Weird, but a good sight, and it’s one of the most visited tourist locations in the area. Then we made our way to Millaa Millaa Falls which are beautiful and provided great photo opportunities. The falls weren’t as spectacular as they could have been but there haven’t been any heavy rains other for a while so the river wasn’t flowing as fast. Next to Mungali Falls for lunch at this really nice cafe they had there. The food was basic but good quality and I really enjoyed the apple crumble they made – especially how they mix fresh coconut into the crumble topping. I’ll have to try that when I get home. A Kangaroo hopped near our minibus as we were arriving but it was too quick for me to take a photo.

Curtain Fig Tree

Curtain Fig Tree

Me at Millaa Millaa Falls

Me at Millaa Millaa Falls

The falls made me and the woman with her daughter think about Salmon and then about that “You are not a Salmon!” advert. Unfortunately we couldn’t remember what it was so spent quite a while thinking about it… in hysterics most of the time. (Kitkat by the way). After lunch we went to Paronella Park which is a really nice Spanish Castle in the rainforest. There was time for a short tour and free time to explore before our last stop of the day at Babinda Boulders – an area of natural beauty and Aboriginal Myth. Most people were tired so didn’t want to walk it – only me, the woman and her daughter did and I’m glad we did as the experience was really special.

Mungali Falls

Mungali Falls

Paronella Park

Paronella Park

Paronella Park

Paronella Park

Babinda Boulders

Babinda Boulders

The tour then finished back at our hotels in Cairns early this evening , but not before we managed to make the tour guide laugh. He asked if there were any questions and nobody had any so the woman asked him “So, why aren’t we Salmon?” which made everybody burst out laughing. This guide has been the best tour guide I’ve ever had and he was born in London too. I was one of the last drop-offs so had a chance to say goodbye to everybody. They were all really nice people and I was glad to have met them.

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