Monday, December 18, 2006

My housewarming party: Doctors and Nurses

Doctors and Nurses house party

Things are going well in Canberra - I'm enjoying being back in this cruisy city. Loving the sunshine. I'm heading home for christmas on Friday for 9 days which will be awesome. Can't wait to go to the beach and see all my family again.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Canberra update

I was just thinking that since returning from overseas I haven't told all my mates what I'm up to. It seems that ordinary life has taken over, and things aren't as exciting as they were but a month ago when I was travelling Europe.

Well things are good, but in different ways of course.

It took me about 3 weeks to get used to being back in Australia after 18months away. I had culture shock in the country I'm from - a very odd feeling. I was surprised by how friendly shop assistants were to me, how fresh the air is, how the sun here burns you so quickly, and how much things cost (I'd totally forgotten what your Aussie dollar gets you). It was fabulous to see family and friends again. Soon my overseas travels went from feeling like a very long dream I'd had to a distant memory. Now I'm just so happy to have travelled, and to have such great memories and have met such awesome people. It sustains me through the dull bits.

I've almost finished my first week of work! I'm a communications officer, in case I haven't mentioned that you yet. I like it so far - really nice people, interesting work happening around me (don't have much to do as yet though), and I have my own rather large office! The location is lovely too - out at Gungahlin. It is a collection of buildings surrounded by paddocks and bushland a little bit out of town.

I just found somewhere to live - with another girl in Dickson, in a nice apartment with all the mod cons, including my own ensuite.. Bring on the luxury living. I just have to walk down my stairs to choose from heaps of yummy restaurants in Canberra's 'china town' (I use the term china town loosely as its the smallest china town I've ever seen!). I move in there on the 11th, and till then I'm staying with Chris in the south of Canberra.

Last weekend I went to Canberra's version of Oktoberfest and drank lots of beer, chatted to lots of people, watched some German folk dancing and ate pork. All good, healthy, excessive drinking type fun. Reminded me of Europe in many ways... :)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Hola amigos!

I´m in Cordoba right now and it is a good 40 degrees outside... well its 35 degrees now that its 6pm. So hot! But at least it is quite dry. Spain is definitely the hottest part of the trip so far.
I had a great time in Barcelona. Nita was stayed longer in Italy so I was on my own there. But not for long really, because after just a morning by myself I met a great bunch of people who I spent time with over the next 5 days. The girl sleeping beneath me on the bunk ended up becoming my good mate and we travelled to Madrid and then onto Seville together as well. Shilly has now gone onto Lagos. It was great meeting some more cool people, and I found travelling on my own quite easy.
Barcelona is an amazing city - there is so much to do there and the night life is just huge! I didn´t get home before 4am 4 nights in a row. As a consequence by the time I got to Madrid I was coming down with a bad cold.... Which I still have now - runny nose, cough and all that. Nita met me in Madrid just fine. I hate being sick on holidays, so I´ve been trying to push through, by going on tapas tours the couple of nights in Seville which have been awesome fun. The tapas was so amazing!
Some highlights have been:
- everything Gaudi in Barcelona. The buildings he created are like something out of a fantasy book, they are just incredible. I loved how much of his work was inspired by nature.
- the Prado in Madrid had an excellent collection of art and an amazing Picasso exhibition. I was so impressed. Madrid was a nice big city, with great food and parks to wander through.
- the Alcazar in Seville was just beautiful. It was a moorish palace that was turned into a christian palace, and had amazing tiling decorations on the walls and beautiful gardens complete with peacocks.
- The mesquita in Cordoba is very beautiful, and I would say the most gorgeous church I´ve been to. It used to be a mosque and was turned into a chruch in the 1400´s. good on them for not destroying something so beautiful. It is filled with amazing archways.
- speaking spanish.. I am so glad I know some spanish because you really need to use it here in Spain! I would say out of all the countries I´ve been to on my trip Spain is the place where it is most useful to know some of the language. I´m great on menus and directions (thanks Jesùs!). I really want to learn more of the language now, it is fun to speak it.
- and of course the major highlight has been the people that I´ve met along the way, there are just so many awesome people that I´ve met on my trip now. The great thing about email is how easy it is to keep in touch with people from all over the world. Even after travelling with someone for a few days you get to know them so well, it can be hard to say goodbye.
I wish I could add some photos to this email but alas, no way of connecting my camera.
Next stop is Granada and then I´m off to London and then home! It is really hard to believe that I will be sitting at home on the Gold Coast in 11 days... It is very hard to imagine right now, here in very hot Cordoba, surrounded by people drinking sangria and cervercas and eating tapas....
I´m off for a siesta....

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Istanbul

We are having a great time in Istanbul - it is a fantastic place, with lots of stuff to do and see. Hyrum was ill for a few days when we got here, poor guy with food poisoning or something, but he's doing much better now. His mate Rustin arrives tonight, so we are a group of 5 for the new few weeks.
Yesterday we went on a cruise up the Bosphorous and the day before we took a ferry to Asia - well the asian side of Istanbul.
People haggle with you here to buy things almost all the time but it is not that bad, it is actually quite funny!
Its super hot here though, but nothing that I can't deal with really. The airconditioning in this computer place is fantastic.
Our hostel has a roof top bar which overlooks the water and the Blue Mosque. Absolutely stunning, and very laid back. I've been eating a lot of Kebaps and baklava. Food is really good here!
Yesterday I went to the Grand Bazaar with Canadian Dan (the second canadian Dan of the trip) and had fun buying jewelry and backgammon boards for his friends. I also did some jewlery purchasing myself. It is amazing how cheap things can get when you walk away from them..
There a mosques scattered everywhere over this vast city, and along with the call to prayer 5 times a day I know I'm not really in europe anymore. People are very friendly here, even when they are not trying to sell you something (which is most of the time). Great place to visit all in all.
On the 17th we are flying to Izmir, then going to Kusadasi, a beachside town for a night where our hostel has a pool! Can't wait for a swim, that is one thing istanbul is lacking right now. Then we catch a ferry to the greek island of Samos, and then onto Mykonos. We might go to another island around there and then we head to athens on the 24th, I have my job interview on the 25th (you can really see me researching sustainable ecosystems on a greek island now can't you....) and then off to italy on the 26th/27th where we stay with Hyrum in Naples for a few days. Once we leave turkey things are going to get much more expensive than eastern europe and istanbul... I'm sure we'll be right.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Transylvania

We had a great day today on a tour of Transylvania. it was really beautiful up there in the forest covered mountains. The castles we visited were very fairytale like.

First stop was the Palais castle, which is quite a modern one really

Transylvannia was awesome today. Beautiful, very atmospheric and fairytale. I can understand the mystic about it, although the whole dracula thing is just a myth created by someone who'd never been here.

We never made it to dracula's tomb (well, Vlad's tomb). It is much more difficult to get around Bucharest than you would think. It is so not set up for tourists yet - there are no signs, people try to help but don't really know how to... Its generally a pretty crazy city, and it reminds me of a latin american city. There are parallels too - Romanian is a romance language (latin) and like some latin american countries they are just emerging from a hard core dictatorship.

The day before yesterday we walked around Bucharest to see some of the sites. Not as easy as you might think! We went to the people's palace, which is the second largest administrative building in the world, the brain child of the dictator Ceausescu , a megolmaniac to say the least. From 1984 to 1989 all the resources in romania went to building this thing, while most people were queuing for 20 hours to buy meat and had no running water. So walking around this enormous building encrusted in marble kind of gave you the creeps. The palace is at the end of a 'copy' of the Champs Elysee in Paris - only it is 1m wider and 15m longer... the dictator guy thought he was tops to say the least.

We are catching a 18 hour train to Istanbul today - we are skipping bulgaria so that we can spend some more time in Turkey. We have heard lots of warnings for all the scams when travelling in Istanbul so we feel prepared. Good there are 4 of us too.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

draculas castle

At dracula's castle in Transylvannia... Hyrum, me and Ken eating black bullets, a Newcastle mint. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Romania, land of Dracula

I'm in Bucharest now, after a brilliant but speedy trip through the Czech republic, Vienna and Budapest.
We have met up with Hyrum now, our friend from Hawaii who is living in Naples. So we have a group of 4 for the next week until we meet Hyrum's mate Rustin in Istanbul. Ken, my mate from Newcastle met us in Budapest.
Was stressing out a bit today when I realised that it is actually quite far from Istanbul to Greece... we are trying to sort that out now so I can figure out where I will be doing my interview from!.
We had a really nice sleeper train from Budapest to Bucharest... 1st class I believe, with even a sink in the room. Played monopoly last night, very fun. Met a social anthropologist from Cambridge, so very random...
We had a great time in Budapest. It was nice hanging with our gang of friends that we had made. They have all moved onto Croatia now. Most sad. There is a pic of some of them - when we were in the train and then our last dinner in Budapest before the farewell.
The snail pic refers to our 4 hour mission to find a park in Budapest where they put all the communist propaganda statues after regime ended. We never found it that day, despite following a guy in khaki and flip flops blindly and asking loads of people for directions. the next day we caught the direct bus there. much, much easier!
Bucharest is an interesting place. Certainly a lot poorer than the other cities we have visited so far. I was wondering today whether the prevalence of sex shops, casinos, currency changers, dodgy Internet places and fancy clothes stores are a consequence of the relatively recent move from a hard core socialist government to a democratic society. Things are cheap here though, or they might be, if I can ever manage to sort out the currency conversions (they have new and old Lei, one has 4 extra zeros, and the other doesn't.... I'm so very confused!!!).

Had a massage yesterday at the baths in budapest. Was sooooo awesome. Perhaps I\'m feeling too relaxed/scattered right now or something.

Must get to sleep, as it is almost 2am, and everyone else has bunked down for the night.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Krakow and Prague







We spent our 3 nights in a very cool hostel called the Stranger, and have met lots of cool people. Our first day here we went on a cycling tour around Krakow, and saw the Jewish ghetto and Oscar Schindler's factory. It was a really interesting tour and gave us a good understanding of what has happened there.
The next day a big group of us went to an amazing lake about 20mins about that was made when they filled in an abandoned quarry. It was quite spectacular. And very beautiful. It was great having a swim in the cool water. We then picnicked on the cliff edge eating polish sausage sandwiches. Yummo.
We've been hanging out with other aussies, brits, irish, american and welsh people, loads of fun. The partying in Krakow has been loads of fun. And things are so cheap here! Yesterday we've eaten some amazing food at Babushka's kitchen - a cute eatery underneath a university, where they serve up amazing polish food. We ate till we could eat no more for about 4euro! Amazing. I tried to eat as much polish food as possible - perogi, pork chops, cabbage rolls, beetroot soup, bascrz, goulash.... so very good, but incredibly filling as well!

While In Krakow we took a trip out to Auschwitz. Words cannot describe how intense it was to be there. It still makes me feel sick in the stomach to think of it. Very moving. I'm really glad we went though.

On our last day in Krakow we went to the salt mines, which are a world heritage site. They are all man made, and we went down loads of steps to end up 136m underground. We went through numerous chambers where miners had carved amazing sculptures out of the rock salt down there. The extent of the caves were incredible. We also saw the largest underground chapel in the world (or something like that) which was very impressive. The acoustics are supposed to be awesome down there for concerts. But the best thing about the salt mines was that it was 14degrees down there, which was a gorgeous change from the relentless 30 degree temperatures we've been having.

Last night we took the overnight train to Krakow, arriving here at 7 in the morning, eventually found a tram, walked up a hill till our calves burned to our hostel just for tonight - the Clown and Bard. We've met a couple of irish guys we met in Krakow, and we're all heading to Czesky Krumlov tomorrow, to chill out and float down a river. Seems like there are loads of Irish and Canadians travelling around, and Aussies of course, but not that many English and no scottish so far.

Today we wondered around Prague, drank some fabulous beer- Pilsner Urquell - and are heading out for even more Czech food tonight at a restaurant that my family discovered where we were here in May - Kolkovna.

Our one night in Berlin (before hitting krakow) was awesome. We went to the Jewish museum, mainly for the architecture and we were not disappointed - it was an amazing building, and made more of an impression on us than the exhibits. That night (after randomly bumping into a girl I met in Scotland at easter on the haggis tour at our hostel), we went back to the squatter's artists residence and bar we went to last time we were there in January and managed to crash a pub crawl. Was lots of fun chatting to random people. I think that really is the best thing about travelling, the people that you meet. And perhaps the amazing food!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Zaans Sachans and Den Bosch





Today we went to Zaans Sachans - a little old-style dutch village (somewhat touristy, but the dutch are so laid back that it didn't really matter). It rained a bit, which was actally something of a relief after the unusually hot weather they have been having here. Off for some drinks tonight in Den Bosch.Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 21, 2006

First stop Paris

I was quite sad leaving Newcastle on the train on Sunday. It had really become my home, after living there for over a year. My last few days there were lovely too - sunny weather, great farewell drinks, seeing the toon play at St James' Park, an evening trip to druries beach (not sure of spelling there) and quiet drinks by the quayside at the Baltic bar watching the sun disappear behind the old buildings.

I spent a nice Sunday night in hot London staying with Katie (thanks Katie and Daf!). We went to Anna Doughtey's (from college days) place for dinner, which was so lovely (thanks Anna!). I must admit I was feeling a bit of culture shock being around a bunch of Aussies after hanging out with Geordies and English people for so long.

I flew in to a stinking hot Paris on Monday. I managed to negotiate the subway system to get the train to the hotel with 3 changes (which I couldn't have done without the handy metro map that Bolt had given me on my last visit), to meet up with Nita and Erwann (Nita's Dutch friend). We went out that evening to Champs Elysee and we lay on the grass next to the Eiffel tower watching the sky change colour as it set. It was a great way to start our Paris adventure.

We began the next day with a trip to the Cemetery Pere Lachaise. It was very leafy, and the mausoleums were quite spectacular, there were so many! We went to Jim Morrison's grave, and kind of wondered why it was so popular.. Perhaps it is the interesting surroundings. After walking up a slight hill we had to sit down to recover (it really is very hot, and living in Newcastle has not prepared me for the heat at all! Nita is feeling the same way, having just left Glasgow. Hopefully we will acclimatise soon because it wont be getting any cooler...)

We descended to the sniffling metro system and arrived at the Luxembourg garden with some sandwich stuff to join the masses of Parisians sitting in the shade enjoying the summer. It was lovely just lying there enjoying the weather. Parisians really know how to do the outside thing. England hasn't mastered it, for obvious weather reasons I presume.

Highlights from the nest few days include having a drink at Le Deux Magots (where the philosophers Sartre and de Beauvoir sat), a picnic at the Sacre Cour (more sunsets!), walking undergound through the macabre Catacombs, Musee d'Orsay (gotta love Renoir and Rodin), tucking into Lebanese food near our hotel, breakfasting on croissants and pain au chocolats, the Pompadieu centre (very interesting art work), Notre Dame (I don't know, I think the York Minster and Durham Cathedral are just as good, although the Vatican probably wins in terms of spectacularness), Le Sorbonne and the Pantheon.

Getting around Paris was quite easy considering Erwann speaks fluent French, having been brought up by French parents in Holland, and my mastering of the metro system :) My French still doesn't get past the 'Bonjour" and "merci" unfortunately, although sometimes I think I understand more than I realise because of my experience in Montreal 5 years ago.

Paris is such a beautiful city, there is some kind of magic about it - the buildings, the white and silver rooftops, the grand scale of the avenues, the leafy tree-lined streets, the spacious parks filled with people enjoying them... I still think it is the most beautiful city I've ever seen. I was just a little sad that Chris wasn't there to enjoy it with me. Some day soon perhaps.

Last night we drove out of Paris in Erwann's car, through Lille, Belgium, and now we are in Den Bosch, Holland at Erwann's very nice apartment. We are in Holland till Monday when we will make our way to Krakow on the train, and begin our Eastern European leg of the trip. I was quite sad leaving Newcastle on the train on Sunday. It had really become my home, after living there for over a year. My last few days there were lovely too - sunny weather, great farewell drinks, seeing the toon play at St James' Park, an evening trip to druries beach (not sure of spelling there) and quiet drinks by the quayside at the Baltic bar watching the sun disappear behind the old buildings.

I spent a nice Sunday night in hot London staying with Katie (thanks Katie and Daf!). We went to Anna Doughtey's (from college days) place for dinner, which was so lovely (thanks Anna!). I must admit I was feeling a bit of culture shock being around a bunch of Aussies after hanging out with Geordies and English people for so long.

I flew in to a stinking hot Paris on Monday. I managed to negotiate the subway system to get the train to the hotel with 3 changes (which I couldn't have done without the handy metro map that Bolt had given me on my last visit), to meet up with Nita and Erwann (Nita's Dutch friend). We went out that evening to Champs Elysee and we lay on the grass next to the Eiffel tower watching the sky change colour as it set. It was a great way to start our Paris adventure.

We began the next day with a trip to the Cemetery Pere Lachaise. It was very leafy, and the mausoleums were quite spectacular, there were so many! We went to Jim Morrison's grave, and kind of wondered why it was so popular.. Perhaps it is the interesting surroundings. After walking up a slight hill we had to sit down to recover (it really is very hot, and living in Newcastle has not prepared me for the heat at all! Nita is feeling the same way, having just left Glasgow. Hopefully we will acclimatise soon because it wont be getting any cooler...)

We descended to the sniffling metro system and arrived at the Luxembourg garden with some sandwich stuff to join the masses of Parisians sitting in the shade enjoying the summer. It was lovely just lying there enjoying the weather. Parisians really know how to do the outside thing. England hasn't mastered it, for obvious weather reasons I presume.

Highlights from the nest few days include having a drink at Le Deux Magots (where the philosophers Sartre and de Beauvoir sat), a picnic at the Sacre Cour (more sunsets!), walking undergound through the macabre Catacombs, Musee d'Orsay (gotta love Renoir and Rodin), tucking into Lebanese food near our hotel, breakfasting on croissants and pain au chocolats, the Pompadieu centre (very interesting art work), Notre Dame (I don't know, I think the York Minster and Durham Cathedral are just as good, although the Vatican probably wins in terms of spectacularness), Le Sorbonne and the Pantheon.

Getting around Paris was quite easy considering Erwann speaks fluent French, having been brought up by French parents in Holland, and my mastering of the metro system :) My French still doesn't get past the 'Bonjour" and "merci" unfortunately, although sometimes I think I understand more than I realise because of my experience in Montreal 5 years ago.

Paris is such a beautiful city, there is some kind of magic about it - the buildings, the white and silver rooftops, the grand scale of the avenues, the leafy tree-lined streets, the spacious parks filled with people enjoying them... I still think it is the most beautiful city I've ever seen. I was just a little sad that Chris wasn't there to enjoy it with me. Some day soon perhaps.

Last night we drove out of Paris in Erwann's car, through Lille, Belgium, and now we are in Den Bosch, Holland at Erwann's very nice apartment. We are in Holland till Monday when we will make our way to Krakow on the train, and begin our Eastern European leg of the trip.


Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 14, 2006

Farwell Drinks







I had my farewell drinks last night, which went really well, and now I have a very sore head on my last day of work! It was so nice to see everyone there, I can't believe I have made so many friends while here, there must have been 30 people at one stage. Friends from work, netball and old housemates. We went to Camp David, a bar that has an outdoor patio, 2 for 1 drinks and free burgers, so it was a really nice atmosphere too.

I hate saying good bye to people. It doesn't seem real, like I know I must see these people again, I'm not going away forever or to another planet. But there is always the possibility that I may not see them again... I'm going to really miss my friends here. It'll sink in in about a month when I'm in Europe and I'll suddenly realise I'm not living in Newcastle anymore. I'm moving on once again.... I should be used to it by now, this is my 5th home since I left the Gold Coast to go to Uni... But people always mean so much, that is what never changes, and it always hurts to go away.

I think I'll stop trying to write silly things because I'm not coherent enough this morning after my 5 hours sleep and drinking escapades.

I left my sunnies on the table and they were discovered by my mates, hence the pics :)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

cruise on the Tyne

On Sunday Ken, Porter (Ken's mate) and Claire (from netball) went on a cruise up the Tyne river - started out at South Sheilds at the north sea and wound our way up the river to the Quayside, and then went all the way back again. It was so awesome, like being on holidays in your own city. I saw a side of newcastle I hadn't really seen before, like the old ship yards that are falling down, and the shipping terminals, and all these places along the way. The very cool part was when we went under the Millenium bridge, which is a tilting bridge, the first of its kind in the world. I'd never seen it open before, and we got to go underneath it! Pics attached.

It was all very English though, nothing spectacular about the ferry and everyone was in wet weather gear as it looked like rain (although we missed it luckily!), and we ate ham sandwiches for 90p and had a cup of tea. It was a nice way to spend a Sunday.

I'm busy preparing to leave Newcastle at the moment. Farewell drinks are organised for Thursday night, which should be good fun! I'm leaving on Sunday for London, then off to Paris on Monday to begin 2 months in Europe. I'm arriving back into Brisbane on September 20.

It is amazing how quickly time is going in the lead up to me leaving. I'm really going to miss this place, I've been here over a year now, and I've just got so used to it. I think I have made the most of my time here - going on trips away and seeing the countryside. In the end it will be the people that I will miss. Hopefully they will all be out to visit me in Oz before too long! Leaving hasn't really sunk in yet. It might hit me somewhere in Europe, when I'll realise that I have left Newcastle for good.

It's all very exciting. I've got almost too much to look forward to right now.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Farewell to Newcastle.... next stop Europe

Well, its all happening now. I've resigned from work and finish there on the 14th. I move out of my house tomorrow and will be staying with my mate Ken for a few weeks, before I leave Newcastle on the 16th to go to London, and then head for Paris for the start of my Europe trip! Nita and I are meeting there and will be travelling mostly by train for 2 months.

The basic itinerary is: Paris, Holland, Krakow, Prague, Czesky Krumlov, Vienna, Budapest, Bucharest, Istanbul, Athens, the Greek Islands, Naples and Spain. Then I'll be back to London before flying home to the Gold Coast in mid September.

So it is all very exciting! I'm going to miss my friend and work mates here in Newcastle, but I'm ready to leave and return home to some decent weather. I don't think I could handle another English winter...

A few weeks ago I went on a science communication conference in Belgium. It was very interesting, and Belgium is lovely. I've put in a few pics from the trip.

England has gone football crazy. I must say I've got quite into it all, especially with Australia doing so well! Robbed I say, and all my English friends have been very supportive and totally agree. Out side my work they have set up a big screen for the England games, so I've attached a pic. Cars are driving around with England flags attached to them (some even with 6 attached!) and every bar and pub and shop has England flags flying. Its all very intense! They really love their football here, that's for sure.

I've had Kirstie staying for the past week, which has been lovely. We were at college together at Uni and we haven't seen each other in almost 4 years. She is in between 2 trips around Europe, and is really enjoying it.

On Monday night it was my housemate Marek's Birthday, so we had a bit of dinner here at home and I managed to cook up some polish food for everyone. He hadn't had any polish food since coming to the UK over a year ago, and he said it was better than polish food (a very nice complement). It was a bit of an expience cooking food I'd only heard about, but it all turned out well and was quite tasty. There is a pic attached on the night - Marek is in the Newcastle football shirt we gave him for his birthday. He's a real Geordie now!