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Dec 2003 Rome

Dec 2002 Peru

Dec 2001 Lisbon

Dec 2000 Budapest

Dec 1999 Prague

New Year Breaks

New Year trip to Rome Dec 2003 with Annette Fitchett, Thomas Fitchett, David Taylor, Debbie Powell, Erica, Brian Booth.

€15 worth pleaseTuesday 30th December - Leave Derby at 5.45, go straight down the M1, at Heathrow for 8am, wait a long time for the bus to terminal two. Meet up with Brian and Erica, have a bit of breakfast. Board at 10.15am on schedule. David and Debbie fly on time from Birmingham at about 8am. Debate about getting a train from the airport but choose a taxi, get ripped off for €90. We check into the Grand Hotel Beverley Hills. Spend a little time at the hotel and then contact David. We get on a very good value bus down to Piazza Barberini and meet David and Debbie. Sit down to a very cold drink outside. Walk up the Via Veneto and find a good bar to have our first pizza of the holiday. Go into a very trendy bar called the "Café de Paris". Debbie wants to dance, after the waiter turns her down me and David pay Thomas €15 to dance with her.

Little & LargeWednesday 31st December - Get up early for breakfast. Get a taxi over to the Vatican. We walk into St Peter's square and are horrified by the huge queues. Have a quick look round the square and decide to come back another day. It starts raining and all of a sudden lots of little men appear selling 'brellos' for €5. Walk down to the Castel St. Angelo. Walk past the fountains in Piazza Navona and on to the amazing Pantheon.
Group1In the Evening we get taxis to the Pont Garibaldi in the Trastevere area. We go to tourist information to ask where there will be fireworks and they tell us everywhere!
Group2We find a good wine bar called "Vin Allegro" and get settled in for a few.
The Creature !Thomas is hungry and we go in search of food. Get settled into another bar called "Il Vicolo" for a small meal before we realise that it is a fixed price menu. The first course is rice in fish sauce with some bones in it. The second course gets delayed and delayed until the waiter tells us that there is only lamb left. Decide to call it a day. Borrow a few bottles of Champagne. We walk out into the street and it is as if third world war has started. Large incendiary devices and small fire crackers are being thrown everywhere. Incredible problems trying to get a taxi back to the hotel, takes hours.

Thursday 1st January - Go down for a quick breakfast at 10am and then back to bed for quite a while. Walk down to the Coliseum. Stop at a café for a nice sandwich and coffee. Meet with David and Debbie at 3pm. Somehow the Coliseum which is open every day is shut. Have a good look round the outside and then have a look at the Roman Forum from a distance. Call in for coffee and then head up to the Trevi fountain. Have a meal and then some more pasta and pizza. Very impressed by the fountain. Walk down to Piazza Barberini and get a taxi home. Have a nice quiet drink in the hotel bar.

Friday 2nd January - Have breakfast at 8am, check out of the hotel and get a taxi down to the Vatican. Queue up for the St Peters Basilica first, very impressed by the size of the structure. Go down into the catacombs and meet a few old Popes. The queue for the Sistine chapel is about 1km long. Start queuing at about 10.30, after about an hour and a half we get in. We are a bit short of time so we rush through the majority of the Vatican Museum to the Sistine chapel. Fly back.

New Year trip to Lisbon Dec 2001.

Saturday 29th Dec - Travel to Lisbon for New Year with Helen, David Taylor and Andrea Salmon, Dave and Dawn Griffiths, and Brian Booth.

Saturday 29th - We all meet up at Heathrow at lunchtime, have a couple of Lagers in the Tap and Spile. Fly at 14.20. Get a couple of taxis from the airport to the Hotel Roma. Set off walking into town, find a few bars on the way. Find a restaurant with a large queue. I have a good meat kebab, Dave and Brian are not very impressed with Portuguese speciality of steak swimming in butter sauce.

Sunday 30th - Get the metro to the old town, get off at Rossio square. Walk down Rue Augusta to the Praca do Comercio. This seems to be the place for New year. Follow the guide book instructions and walk up to the castle. Great views out of the city. Decide to eat there this evening. Go up the Elevador de Santa Justa. We intended to walk across to the Bairro Alto but the walkway is closed. Have a couple of drinks at the top and enjoy the view. When we decide to go back down the elevators are not working and there are no stairs. After a few minutes Dawn and Andrea get rather desperate. After a few minutes longer a corner of the platform is declared to be an emergency toilet. In the evening we head back up to the castle restaurant. Two women and a man provide the entertainment for the evening by throwing wine over each other and shouting.

Monday 31st - David is not feeling very well. The rest of us head of to the Expo 1998 site, Parque Das Nacoes. We go round the aquarium, very good. We then walk along the shores of the river Tejo to the Vasco du Gama tower. Go to the top and see views of the longest bridge in Europe, 11 miles. In the evening we buy a load of beer and walk down to the Prace do Comercio at about 10pm. Some old bloke is playing, try to decide if this is the famous Da Weasel. We are all surprised that there seem to be very few people drinking and no aggression. Fantastic fire works as the new year starts and the Euro is launched in Portugal. As we walk back we see some people having their picture taken with some of the new notes. I ask them where they got them from. We rush to a cash machine to get some. Spend some time working out how many 9's I can type into the machine. In the end I get 200 out at 1am. Euro fever ensues and I insist on buying all the beer with euros. Get home for about 4am.

Tuesday 1st January - I make it down to breakfast with Helen, Andrea and Brian. We wait for Dave and Dawn and then head out to the Torre de Belem. Get a tram on the way back. It is old and trundles along the narrow streets. It seems a shame that we have not used more trams.

Wednesday 2nd - David is still not feeling too well so Andrea stays in with him. A rainy and miserable day. We head into the centre of town again.

New Year trip to Budapest Dec 2000

Friday 29th December - Flight to Budapest at 12:45pm with Helen, Anna, David Taylor and Andrea Salmon. Arrive at the Hotel Gold. Walk down the hill and over the Elisabeth bridge, have a drink in a nice underground bar and talk over the plan for tomorrow. Have a very good meal in a typical Hungarian bar, we are in our own separate wooden panelled area.

Saturday 30th December - Have an early start. Follow the first day of walking tour out of David's guide book. Go up the funicular railway up to castle hill. Look round the main buildings. Go round the labyrinth under the castle hill, very modern art, homos consumerus. Very cold, call in for a beer in a very small bar. Go to a classical music concert by the Danube Symphony orchestra. Wander round afterwards and find a bar called the Anna Café.

Sunday 31st December - Me, David and Helen walk down to the parliament building over the Chain bridge. Catch the very good value tram on the way back. We go back for the others and head over to the city park for the thermal baths, travel on the underground. Unfortunately when we arrive the baths are shut. Travel down to the Gellert baths but they are shut also, go over the Freedom bridge. Eat in the hotel, very good service. Have a small sleep and then go down into town for about 8pm. Everywhere is very noisy. Have a few very drinks and see in the new year on the banks of the Danube. Cannons are fired from the Elisabeth bridge, huge amounts of fireworks.

Monday 1st January - Helen goes down for breakfast but nobody else bothers. We go to the Gellert baths in the afternoon, we all have to wear blue plastic caps. Buy some vodka, for £1, and some wine from the 24-7 shop. Have a cocktail party in David and Andrea's room, eat in the hotel again.

Tuesday 2nd January - Get the airport bus at 7.30am. Fly at 10am. Heathrow for 1pm.

Millennium trip to Prague with David Taylor

Thursday 30th December - Fly from Heathrow at 10.50. Stay at the hotel Balkan. It is supposed to be three stars but David is disappointed. We unpack and then walk into town. Walk over the Charles bridge. Have tea, pizza for £2, beer for 40p. Walk home in the snow. Get changed into black tie gear and go to see the Magic Flute at the Tyl Theatre. I am almost dozing off when the women next to me stands up, starts singing and walks onto the stage. Apparently she is the leading lady. Have a look at Wenceslas square and then find the old square. Decide that this is the place to be for the critical moment.

Friday 31st December - Tram into town, they are free over the millennium. Walk up to the Castle on top of the hill. We both buy Red Army surplus hip flasks and real Russian Rabbit fur hats. Buy a bottle of Vodka for £2. Back into town for 5pm. Start drinking larger in and around the old square. It gets very cold so we go into a few bars, have some Absynthe. Loads of bangers are being set off under peoples feet. Walk up to Wenceslas square, very full of people. Bars now want between £7 and £80 to get in. Drink cans of lager in the square. Meet a few English speaking people. The setting is fantastic. Make lots of phone calls before and after midnight. It rains down with Champagne as the year 2000 starts. Talk to Helen in Leamington and Michelle and Anna in the Sitwell Arms.

Saturday 1st January - Very slow start to the day. Try to piece together the events of last night. Take the metro into the centre of town. Over the Charles bridge, DT buys some pictures. Have a walk into the suburbs later on, catch the tram home but it goes the wrong way, home for 1am.

Sunday 2nd January - Get up early and get into the centre for 10am for our 'Day of Culture'. Start with McDonald's for breakfast. Climb the St Nicolas tower, then go inside the church, huge. Climb the hill and go round the Prague Castle/Palace. Do the St. Vitus cathedral. Also the picture gallery in the Sternburg palace, mostly religious pictures. Quick look at the Monastery. Buy tickets for a Vivaldi and Handle concert in the evening. I enjoy it, David thinks that it is fabulous. Go to our favourite bar in the old square. Have a good meal there and then drink till 10pm. Walk down to the Koverna bar for some more. Walk back over a deserted Charles bridge and walk back along the back streets.

Monday 3rd January - Fly at 14.50pm, plenty of time to get to the Windmill that evening. Robert Benson comes in and says hello.

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