Friday, August 27, 2010

Work & Play

Bright and early Monday morning I started my new job as an Administrator for the Nursing and Midwifery Council of the UK and I have to tell you I was a little bit excited (which is weird because it is work after all). With work comes a paycheck and I was very excited about getting a nice regular deposit of funds into my dwindling account!

Once I arrived I was introduced to Rachel who was the girl currently doing my job and she would be the one who was training me for the week. She is also an Aussie and has been in London for two years so she taught me a lot about the city as well as the job. So after a quick introduction to what I was doing we got stuck into the work. I am working in the legal department that deal with cases of misconduct by nurses in the UK and its basically my job just to maintain the database with case details and manage spreadsheets with information. I also process a few files and do some basic paperwork so overall its a pretty cruisy job and after a couple of days I think I had it pretty much down pat.

Its clearly not my ideal career but I am happy to be out and working. I only work a 36 hour week and get paid fairly well (in terms of admin assistants anyway) to do not a very strenuous job. I don't have to report to anyone regularly and so I just plod away with my files and my data and do my own thing. This is both good because it means there is no pressure and no one breathing down my neck but its also slightly lonely. Luckily for me one of the girls I was working with at Topshop also got a temp job there so I at least had one friendly face. There are also about 6 or 7 other Julia Ross temps there who are all young Aussies so there is at least some similar people to chat to during lunch. Overall my first week went pretty well and I think that while I am getting settled in London it will be a good stepping stone and hopefully in a few months time I am able to score that dream job! If not I am still working and living in London and thats the real dream! The highlight of my days during the week is lunchtime because it means I can get out of the office, wander down the street and get a coffee/sandwich/chocolate and walk along the Thames or Fleet Street which are both near my office. I also work right near the Strand which is a fairly famous street that has the royal law courts (ohhh all the men in their fancy suits - best lunchtime entertainment ever). It kinda fun to know that where you work is actually a spot on a Monopoly board. Depending on what tube I get I also get to walk along the Thames and get views of Big Ben and the London Eye regularly. There is nothing like an icon of London to lift your spirits and remind you why you are living thousands of miles away from your family and friends. So while its not a perfect job and I am not going to change the world doing it - right now its perfect.

During the week I also checked out a few places to live as I was determined not to stay in my falling down house. I did find one place that was really good and almost took it but after a bit of consideration (I'm not rushing into anything this time) I decided it probably wasn't right for me as I didn't meet all the housemates (because we were all going to be newbies in the house) and it was a bit out of the way. By that I mean it was a good 20 min walk from the night bus stop - which is clearly a priority at the rate I am boozing my way around London haha. So still no where new to live but I still have a little while until I am homeless so I wasn't massively stressed.

Since I finally had one part of my life sorted it meant I could relax a bit about my future in London and so I decided to spend the weekend down at Hawkesbury Upton with family friends. During the working week it was so good to have something to look forward and when Friday finally came around I was super excited to be getting away from the city and seeing some close friends. I was also looking forward to being looked after by my 'other mum'. Friday night was supposed to be a quiet one at Toni's place with her, Leanne and myself having dinner and a few drinks. Well, I should have known better. A quick phone call from other Topdeckers and our quiet night and few drinks turned into a whole bottle each and a impromptu gathering and piss up. We spent most of the night talking and laughing and planning our trip to Edinburgh, Belgium and onwards. At one stage we even had a world map out and were pointing to places we were planning to go. I'm not sure if these plans will go ahead but we did create a plan for Edinburgh from a drunken night out and we are actually going so you never know!

After getting home at 2am I was looking and feeling a bit worse for wear when I woke up at 6am to get ready for the bus down to Bristol. I'm not sure if you guys remember but me and Caroline nearly missed our bus there last time so I was determined not to miss it this time. So after a quick pack of my backpack and a shower I was out the door and ended up getting there 45 mins early. Sitting at a crowded bus station in the cold while I am hung over really early in the morning is SO not the way to spend a Saturday morning! Luckily I was able to have a bit of a snooze on the bus and when I arrived in Bristol I was feeling much better. After a quick pit stop to a local shopping centre on the way home I arrived in Hawkesbury about 12ish to a big hug from Sylvia and a hot cup of tea. Those two things made me feel so happy and calm it was a nice feeling.

After a quick catch up chat with Sylvia I spent the afternoon eating and drinking my way around the area. A big pub lunch in a restaurant/pub then onto another little pub to try a cider (I really need to get into it I think). We had a lazy drink while answering quiz questions (which I totally won even though we weren't really keeping score but I can't help it if I LOVE quizzes) before heading to ANOTHER pub to catch up with a friend of Sara and Mark's. It was sort of like a pub crawl really... That night I was treated to a roast dinner (YYYYUUMMM!) and more drinks before me and the kids went out to a neighbouring village (or town??) to hit up some more pubs and have a bit of a dance.

By this stage I was already a bit pissy so I was having a great night just drinking and dancing as I hadn't been out 'clubbing' since my first weekend in London so I was loving it. I also go introduced to raspberry cider which will probably lead my demise into true alcoholism as it is delicious! With the mixture of a dance floor, fun people to hang out with and lots of booze I was a very happy girl.

The next morning after a glorious sleep in I was happy to find that I wasn't hung over at all. Well not very much at least and I was treated to a proper home cooked English breakfast which made a welcome change from cereal (that I have EVERY day). Sunday was spent doing what everyone should be doing on a Sunday - being lazy. We basically just hung out in the conservatory, listened to music, watched tv and all together just lazed around. I had been feeling a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) as I knew that all my London friends were hitting up Brick Lane - where they have heaps of curry houses - without me and I was devastated. I didn't feel too bad for too long however when I got ANOTHER roast dinner with desert. Take THAT London friends - when is the last time you had a home cooked roast! Oh I was so spoilt while I was there and I was pretty bummed to leave. Two days wasn't long enough and I felt a bit down on the way into London as it was rainy and I was tired and I was going home to a place with a hole in the roof and average house mates. In saying that I am lucky that I have a place away from the city that I can go to and be with friends and hang out so I shouldn't be bummed at all! Plus, I better not get used to running 'home' to visit them or they will get sick of me and I wont get any more home cooked meals!

It was a big week of work and play but the next one is going to be even bigger as I was on my own at work now with no trainer (such a big kid) and the next weekend is a bank holiday and our trip to Scotland. Hopefully next time I write I've got loads of stories and photos!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Visitors,Family Dinners, Shopping Sprees, House Parties and Hangovers

What a week! After having a shaky start on Sunday with a hole in my roof I have to admit I was pretty down and bummed about the situation.

On Monday I was lucky enough to have Toni (one of my lovely Topdeckers) come to crash for a week. It was nice to have some girl company in a house full of boys - which many don't really speak English. It was also good for someone to come and check out the hole in my ceiling and analyse my next move. After chatting to the landlord (once he got back from holidays) I decided it might be best for me to start looking for somewhere a bit more...sturdy... to live. The landlord seemed to think that the hole in the ceiling was from a past flood of the bathroom and nothing to do with the fact that there was (and still is) a constant leak of water from the bathroom. "leftover dampness" is what he called it. "Gross" is what I called it. The leak is currently dripping onto a power board/microwave whenever someone has a shower. Once I pointed that out to him he told me that he will just plaster over the hole but not for a few weeks until he can get his mate who is a plasterer to do it.

At that point I was like 'Riiiiiiiiight' time to bail. So thankfully I had Toni here to help me make light of the situation and cheer me up as I was still depressed over my crap Topshop job and my falling down house. Later that day we kept hearing the door slam and we realised that the latch wasn't working on the front door. So basically all you had to do was to come along and push it open - either that or the wind blew it open. The landlord heard it slamming so came over with a screwdriver and wiggled it before saying ' all fixed' and leaving again. Yeah well it wasn't fixed - it kept doing it pretty much all arvo and then again some of the day on Tuesday.

We basically just bummed all day before heading off on a walk of Wimbledon Common. The common isn't too far away from my house but I wasn't 100% sure how to get there. After a quick look on google maps (How did I ever live without it?) I realised it wasn't too far away if we just short cut through the park. Possibly my worst idea ever. We ended up getting there... just 40 minutes after we were supposed to. However we got a good view of the Wimbledon Tennis Arena and checked out all the pretty houses and fancy cars in the area. Note to self: Find a rich sugar daddy and make him buy me a house in Wimbledon. They were beautiful!

That night we wandered down to a local pub and had a meal with a friend of Toni's from home. It is always good to meet new people and suss out another pub in the area. The pub called 'the Park Tavern' had a really nice beer garden out the back so we sat in what was left of the sun and chatted away. They were all Kiwi's too so once again I was the token Aussie. I still haven't really met any new English friends but I'm working on it!

No matter where you are in the world it seems that there is always a tight-arse Tuesdays at the movies. We made the most of this by checking out Step Up 3d with Leanne. After spending a whole week with her and then the next week not seeing her I was lacking in Leanne dates. It was good to have a quick catch up and do something fun and cheap like seeing a movie while munching on lollies. I have been really good since I have been back and not eating massive amounts of junk food nibblies but I have recently discovered these caramel bite thingy's. Its only going to go downhill from here I think. But oh well! you can't not eat junk food at the movies!

During this week I was lucky enough to have a visitor from home. Ash had come over and was about to embark on his big Europe trip so it was my turn to play tour guide of London. I was such a fraud! Luckily he wasn't paying me because I didn't really know much about where to take him. In fact he knew more from his guidebook then I really knew. We met at Kings Cross where he was staying and made our way to Picadilly Circus. From here we walked down to Trafalgar Square and then along the strand so he could check out some of the sights. We crossed the river so he could see the London Eye and Big Ben before we settled down and grabbed a meal and a beer. I was trying to find a cosy English traditional pub but of course everywhere I turned I couldn't find one. Clearly I haven't explored enough pubs for this to happen - seriously! I am in Britain and couldn't find a pub! Something has gone wrong somewhere.

After a good catch up over a drink we headed back over the river to St Paul's Cathedral where we decided to go in and check it out. It was 9.50 pounds to get in which I though was a bit exxy for a cathedral visit but that was until I got inside. Wow. Just Wow. I don't mean to brag but after trekking my way across Europe I have seen some mean cathedrals but this one was by far the prettiest and the best. Inside the artwork was just amazing and the place was just gigantic. We headed up the stairs (around 500) via the Whispering Gallery up to the top to get 360 degree views of the city. Luckily it was a sunny day and Ash managed to score a few good piccies. I was silly enough to have no battery on my camera - I must have lost my touristy touch once I unpacked my backpack.

That night I was heading out to dinner with my Topdeck crew as two more members had arrived and settled in London. We met at a bar serving two for one cocktails and caught up with Sean and Clare and heard all their travel stories. It was so good to see them again after running into them at Pamplona and its nice to have an addition to the crew. The lucky ducks had managed to score themselves a place to live and Clare had even found a job! As I was still unemployed and living in a falling down mess I was extremely jealous!

After a few cocktails we headed down to a Greek place that had been recommended by a friend. It was a tiny restaurant run by a old Greek man where there is no menu. You just pay 9.50 pounds and they keep bringing food out to you. We had probably about five courses all up. We had pickled veggies, olives and chillies on a plate, spinach and cheese puffs, cheesy pasta and pasta salad and then about seven different dips with bread. That was just the entrée! Then we got given tabouleh, cous cous and lamb (which just fell right off the bone), tuna and chicken for mains. Then for desert we got Greek yoghurt drizzled in honey. We were completely stuffed! Taking into consideration all the wine/beer we had drunk it seemed weird that we were able to walk (not roll) out of that place.

I love Topdeck catch ups they are so much fun! Its so good to have a group of friends already in London that I can hang out and go out drinking with and know that its going to be fun. We had a great time eating and chatting and even discussed regular 'family dinners' every few weeks. We also planned our first 'family holiday' to Scotland for the long weekend in a couple of weeks time. After the restaurant we headed to another bar down the road for a quick drink where I had one of those small world moments. Of all the bars in London I walk into one where someone I had met a few months ago travelling was working. So that's about the third time something like that has happened. Watch this space because I am sure there will be more.

On Thursday morning I woke up feeling slightly hungover to the sound of my phone ringing. I got a call from a recruitment agency setting me up with an interview for Friday and some shifts for Topshop. So I headed off to the dreaded place. It wasn't so bad this time. I think because I had had a few days in between and was put in the sort room (not the dungeon) with a friendly temp time passed pretty quickly.

Friday was the big interview day. As I headed into town I think I prayed to every possible person you can pray to that I would 'just please get this job'. It was for an Administration position at the Nursing and Midwifery Council of the UK which wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I spent 3 years studying Communications but it would be a steady pay check and a means to start living the London lifestyle. Plus it would mean I could commit more money to rent and therefore get a nicer place. After a quick informal chat with two of the managers there I was offered the job on the spot! Hurrah! I can't tell you the feeling of having that weight lifted off my shoulders! I literally skipped once I got out onto the street. Not enough to freak out other pedestrians but just a little because I had butterflies everywhere. I then spent about 50 million pounds in phone credit telling nearly everyone I knew before calling the recruitment agency trying to get out of my Topshop shift. Unfortunately I had to go in and work as I could not give them 24 hours notice but I didn't mind because it meant it would be the last time I was working there. I could go back to a normal oblivious shopper! Whoooop! So after a quick change at home I headed back into Topshop for my final shift.

Don't worry - I still managed to celebrate my job getting. After my shift at Topshop I met up with Ash and had a few celebratory drinks starting with a Margarita. It was good to be out with a mate celebrating but since I was exhausted from working and lack of sleep due to interview nerves I had to hit the hay pretty early. I was sad to say goodbye to Ash but glad to know I will be seeing him in November when he is back. It is his 21st birthday when he is here again so I have the next few months to explore the place and plan something epic. He is doing some of the same Busabout route as me so hopefully I instilled some wisdom about the places and he has a great time. If you want to check out his travel blog

Saturday morning was another semi-hungover morning after those Margaritas and several other drinks. Luckily we got a bit of a sleep in before heading to the Portobello Road markets with Leanne, Sean and Clare. I'm not sure how to describe how packed this place was. It was a miserable rainy cold day and yet the streets were FILLED jam packed with people. It was a fun atmosphere but actually looking at the stalls without ramming 6 people was completely impossible. We had a slow wander down the road, checked out Notting Hill and grabbed a famous cupcake from Hummingbird Bakery. We basically just mosied around checking out the shops and the crowd for a couple of hours before grabbing lunch (yummm falafel wrap) and heading back to the tube station.

Since I ACTUALLY had a reason to by clothes since I needed work clothes we headed to Westfield at Shepards Bush. It is the biggest shopping centre in Europe and it is insane. We walked in and on the first level there is Louis and Chanel everywhere. There is also a champagne bar in the middle of the isle so you can just drink some bubbly while you watch people shop. I don't know about you guys but at my local shopping centre at home in the middle of the isle are lolly stalls and phone case suppliers. It was an absolute mission to get around this place or even find the stores that sell clothes cheap enough for me to buy. Which was probably a good thing as I could have gotten out of hand (so much built up shopping time inside me!) and I would have blown all my cash.

It was a fun day out but after awhile the crowds just got too much. I was still exhausted from my dodgy sleep and repeated hangovers so it was time to head home. After a bit of quiet time at home before Toni arrived I was ready and raring to go to a house party down the road. Everyone came by my place beforehand to have a few pre drinks and check out the hole in my roof (what an attraction!). The landlord had replaced the carpet and given us a new couch and chairs during the week which was nice an all but ummm could he maybe fix the hole in the roof? It was nice to have somewhere sort of clean and nice for my friends to sit. Next house will definitely have a good living area!

So after getting a bit tipsy on our pre drinks we wandered down the road to Sam & Lance's place (Toni's friends from NZ that we had dinner with). They live about 10 min walk away so we didn't have to stress too much about stumbling home. On the way we picked up 3 bottles of wine for 10 pounds (after already demolishing one) so we were ready and raring to party. We got there just as they were hitting the pinyata for one of the house mates birthday. After a few quick intros we were given the guided tour of the house (which was pretty similar to mine without the holes) before settling into the living room and embarking on drinking games. Two bottles of red wine later we were more then a little tipsy and we headed home. It was a fun place to be but since we were the randoms who had never met the birthday girl it felt like a good time to bail. On the way home we dropped Leanne off at the busstop where she promptly sat almost on top of the girl sitting there even though there was a whole bench free. I laughed so hard I was crying. The poor girl must have thought I was mental but when Leanne was like "Whoops! Personal Space!" seemed the funniest thing in the world to drunken me. In fact I laughed all the way home and when I woke up in the morning and I am still giggling about it now. Its probably not at all funny to you guys reading but just try and imagine.

Sunday was moving day! Not for me (not quite yet anyway) but for Toni who was shifting into her new place. We grabbed her stuff from mine and Leannes place and dumped it at her new one before heading down the road to Nando's as me and Leanne were hung over (oh dear yes again) and in need of some fatty food. After filling up our tummys yet again we had a wander along the area right near Clapham Junction. There were lots of cute cafes and restaurants and a couple of shops and I thought to myself 'Hmm this is my kinda scene' so I am thinking of looking at places around that area. That afternoon I had a viewing at a place at Wimbledon which was only one tube stop down from me. It was a nice place and the girls were really friendly but I didn't get a 'omg I have to live here' feeling and I was a little bit nervous about rushing into a place again. I have a couple of weeks left on this months rent so I am not homeless quite yet so I think I will see what I can find. Although I know its the best way to do it I am not looking forward to a week or so of trawling through gumtree and checking out places. It will be worth it when I find the ideal flat!

That pretty much sums up my week. I promise to be better with my blogging in the near future but my excuse was all my hangovers! haha not really just spend most of my time online checking out places to live!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Working Girl

Yes! That's right! I scored a job! Since it has been a little while since I have blogged I will fill you in on last week before I update you on what has happened lately.

Early in the week I had emailed a recruitment agency focusing on getting Aussies and Kiwis employment in the UK. So after emailing them on Sunday, getting a call from them on Monday, interview on Tuesday - I was working on Wednesday!

I picked up some temporary shifts at Topshop - Oxford Circus. For those of you who haven't crossed the threshold of this particular store (read: heaven for shopoholics) it is a three story high shop in central London that sells clothes, shoes, accessories. Think of it as a really really really really big Sportsgirl (but better). It has a petite section for tiny girls, tall section for tall girls, vintage section, general area full of beautiful clothes, whole denim department, massive shoe department, make up, accessories, hair and beauty salon and coffee shop. That's just for the girls - there is a whole level of that for the boys as well.

On previous trips to London me and my sister have spent hours upon hours in this shop. Trawling the clothes and spending the majority of our Pounds on clothes and bags etc etc. Needless to say I thought I had landed that awesome job I was telling you about although temporary I was excited to get out of the house and start earning the quids. Well I was sooooooooooooo wrong. I was aware that I would basically just be helping move stock around and unpacking boxes but I was still looking forward to it. I wasn't aware that I would be doing this two floors below street level in a basement level that had no ventilation and was actually 30 degrees. I spent the first two days of my time at Topshop in what I called the dungeon receiving the deliveries (4000 pieces of clothes three times a day) which mean unbagging the clothes and unziptying the hangers. We then had to put them all away in the specific departments. Once that was done we had to do standards which basically meant the clothes had to go in size order, make sure the hangers had finger spacing (if there was room) and were arranged by sleeve/pant length, material type etc etc. It was so mind numbing and very tedious.

After spending the first two days in storage room hell I was promoted to helping in the sort rooms over the next couple of days. These rooms are next to the fitting rooms and it is our job to 'block' all the clothes together. For example: find all the dresses with the same style and transfer them onto a rail that will eventually be cleared onto the shop floor. As you can imagine this was as mind numbing and tedious as the storage room but the benefit was that we were above ground in the air conditioning. I also got the chance to properly talk to some more of the temps who were all Aussies who had just moved to the UK. The worst part about these shifts was that they were 3pm until midnight. So after the shop closed it was our job to clear all the stock out onto the floor. As a temp who has only been there for a few days and with the gazillion different styles of clothes let me tell you this wasn't an easy feat. I'm pretty sure I would have walked a few kilometres during these shifts.

The other fabulous job I got to do was tidy the sale rack.

Which. Was. The. Worst. Job. Ever.

Coat hangers and clothes all over the floor which means hours retrieving them, hanging them up and then watching them fall as people rummaged through the racks. It was hours of people asking me for directions and sizes and price checks - as a temp I had NO idea and I think I repeated the phrase 'I'm sorry, I am just temping, go to the info desk' about a zillion times. One lady even came up to me four times and asked me the same question. GRRRR. I also got shoved out of the way and my fingers caught in hangers all day because I swear girls are crazy around 'Sale' signs - its ok honey, you will get that shirt, by the way its ugly that's why its on this rack but you go for it.

Not sure if you have noticed from the tone of this blog but I didn't like working there very much. To be honest Topshop has gone from being one of my favourite shops to being my worst nightmare. I suppose I shouldn't whinge (maybe its because I'm surrounded by POMS?) because it was a job! Which means incoming moola and something to kill the time. I also met a few great people who I can hopefully catch up with soon and even though it was crappy work - I am still working in London which pretty much beats working at home. Lets just say I now know that I have reached the limit of my time working in retail shops!

It wasn't an all bad week though! After an early shift (7.30-4.30 - yuck! I haven't been awake that early since Topdeck!) I caught up with a friend from Busabout and we grabbed a few drinks and a nice dinner around the area. It was so good to see her again as we hadn't seen each other since Spain and there was a lot to catch up and gossip about. She is also seeking a job and after swapping horror stories about recruitment agencies and talking about how lame unemployment is, I felt a lot better that I wasn't the only one in that situation.

Since I was working the midnight shifts over the weekend I basically had no social life which was good because I was earning money and saving money as I had no chance to go out and spend it. I still managed to have a lunch date with a friend and a quick browse around the shops so it wasn't a completely wasted weekend.

But I have to tell you the complete highlight of my week was early Sunday morning (around 3am) I woke up to the sound of the plaster falling off my living room ceiling. Yep - there is a giant hole in the room of my house where you can see the wooden beams from the floor above. This hole is also dripping water from the bathroom. The best part was that my landlord (who lives next door) wasn't home so I left for work on Sunday not knowing what to expect when I came home. After working 40 hours at Topshop I came home from a 10 hour day with a bottle of wine and chocolate because I figure if there was a mess at least food and alcohol will brighten my mood. Thankfully when I got home one of the boys had cleaned up the mess so I didn't need to stress about that however my landlord was still not home. Since I couldn't do much about the situation I cracked open the wine and chocolate and relaxed.

I'm not sure if it was the work itself or since it was the first time I had worked in four months but I was exhausted! I know backpacking can be tiring but I would much prefer to recover sitting on a beach somewhere or checking out a rad view rather then holed up in my room while it rains outside. Still... even after a pretty average week I am still loving my life in London. If a crappy job and a leaking roof can't get me down I think I will be loving my life here for a long time.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


A little while ago my sister sent me an email full of questions about backpacking and my experiences. I thought I would share with you guys my answers. Also if you guys have any questions feel free to comment and I will answer them.

1. Where was the worse toilet?

Albania, we stopped off in a random little town on our way from Tirana (the capital) to Dubrovnik in Croatia and we had to use a squat toilet. They had a tap continuously running so you had to try and navigate your way around that while trying not to stack it. You also couldn't flush the toilet paper so they were really stinky. The owner of the cafe and his wife were having a very loud domestic in Albanian about whether we should be allowed to use the toilets without buying anything(there were about 10 of us) but there was no way I could last another two hours on the bus.

2. Of the countries you have visited which metro system was the hardest to work out?

Prague - but it was a tram system. I think most of the problem was that they were doing servicing works and the ones we jumped on kept terminating at a random construction site. One day we spent two hours on the trams trying to complete a 15 minute journey. It was one of those times that if you didn't laugh you would cry.

3. Has there been any embarrassing moments during your travels?

Um, I don't really get embarrassed that easily because most of the time I figure I'm a tourist and no one will ever see me again. Probably just the bad photos taken when I'm drunk or my drunk dancing.

4. Have you meet anyone that has really annoying habits that drove you mental?

I met a few people that annoy me but its just their general personality rather then habits.

5. After all your time spent on buses, do you like sitting up the front, down the back or in the middle? Is there a spot on the bus that you always gravitate too

I generally try and sit in the first half of the bus next to a window so I can sleep. The front is almost always less crowded because no one wants to be a dork and it always is a lot cooler and less stuffy then up the back.

6. What is the best beach you have visited during your travels?

I had the most fun at a beach in Dubrovnik where we had a swim in the cool water and sat and ate seafood while the sun set but it was a stone beach so it wasn't very comfy. In terms of best beach I would have to say San Sebastian but that's because it is pretty much my favourite place in the whole entire world.

7. Of all the 4000 photos you have taken, what are your top five?

Me in Amsterdam

My 2 Euro Sangria at the beginning of a very messy day in Pamplona

Me and Caroline in Monaco

Me and my topdeck crew on the best day of my whole entire life in Dubrovnik

My family at my cousins wedding in Ireland

8. Of all the places you have visited, where do you want to visit again first?

Croatia. Without even thinking about it. If I won lotto I would be on my way there in about half and hour. I would hire a boat, sail from Split to Dubrovnik. Hang out there for a few days in the old town then head to the capital, Zagreb, to check out a Croatian city.

9. Where were the worse and best beds?

Best bed was in Barcelona in the hotel room. Double bed to my own with clean good quality sheets in an air-conditioned room with black out curtains.

Worst bed was in Turkey where we stayed in a complete hovel of a hotel in Gallipoli.

10. Did you meet any smelly people?

Every time I used a metro it seemed that I stood next to the smelliest person on there. Although when we were in Amsterdam we were in a room with a guy that just stunk of pot the whole time and he was so stoned that he never left the room. Even when he did is bag stunk of pot so we had to put up with it. Although pretty much everywhere in Amsterdam smelt of pot.

11. In which country did you see the most sausage dogs?(We have a sausage dog at home for those readers who have never met the cutest dog in the world Harrison)

I saw the most sausage dogs in Germany, more specifically Munich. None were as cute as Harry as most of them were wire haired ones. I saw a Charlie (my old dog) clone in Munich and followed him for about 10 minutes until we found a Chester clone (Caroline's dog) then stalked him for a little bit too.

12. If you won a million dollars tomorrow and could live in any of the countries you have visited, where would you set up home?

France. I would set up home in Tours (which is where my cousin lived while she studied French)because it apparently has the purest fFench with no accent or affliction. Its also only eight hours away from San Sebastian where I would love to have my holiday home.

13. Which country has the best looking fellas?

Australia! hahaha. All the hotties I've met have been Aussies. Probably the Dutch come a close second though. They just know how to dress. And there is nothing hotter then a well groomed man who dresses well.

14. Of all the cuisine you have tasted, which dish did you wish you had the recipe for?

The Greek salads I ate at this little Taverna on the beach in Petreti. It was run by this little old Greek man called Dimitri (I think) and I swear I probably ate about seven tomatoes I had so much of it. I even ate the olives!

15. What is the weirdest question a foreigner has asked you about Australia?

Why is the British flag on your flag - is it because you speak English? (this was asked by an American)

16. What is the longest time you went without washing your clothes?

Two weeks. which is way too long. It was during Pamplona too which meant everything was sandy and full of sangria. Luckily we spent a day at the beach so I could wear my bikini bottoms as I had run out of undies. I have never been so feral in all my life.

17. Of the 120 days (or however long you have been travelling) how many days didn't you have an alcoholic drink?

Probably about ten to fifteen? shit. hahaha

18. Has there been any moments that you felt really scared?

I got a bit scared in the crowd during Pamplona because it was so claustrophobic. Got slightly lost when I was drunk in Barcelona and they reckon you shouldn't walk around by yourself at night time so I was starting to get a bit scared but found my hotel so it wasn't too bad. Apart from that not really. There are always people around me so its never too bad and I have been extremely lucky that none of the horror stories you hear about happened to me.

19. After four months in foreign countries how would you rate your map reading skills between 1 - 5? 1 being - I desperately need a GPS - 5 you never got lost.

3.5 - depending on the city. There have only been a few times that I have been lost. Caroline called me her personal GPS and apart from once in Amsterdam where we walked past the red light district twice. When I was really drunk in Pamplona and couldn't find the bus station. In Bordeaux when I missed the turn off because me and Nathan were chatting so much. Apart from these times I haven't really been too lost. Oh and the tram tour of Prague but that was completely different all together.

20. How many books have you taken from book exchanges? And what was the best read?

1. Little Alters Everywhere - Rebecca Wells
2. The Count Of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
3. The Book of Tomorrow - Cecilia Ahern
4. Leaving The World - Douglas Kennedy (This book SUCKED. It took me a whole week to get through. That is saying something considering this was the week I was on my own the most and I read quickly)
5. Time Travellers Wife - Audery Niffenegger (This one was the best one. I read it in about two days while I was having my lazy rainy days in Tours. I also lugged it back to London with me to have on my bookshelf permanently)

I also scabbed Confessions of A Shopoholic - Sophia Kinsella off a friend and bought Sense & Sensibility - Jane Austen while I had a book exchange lull.

21. Worse hangover during your travels was experienced where?

This is a tough one. Prague was really bad. It followed a night of about 6 absinthe shots, 4 gin and tonics, two wines and several other drinks. I couldn't leave the hostel because I was throwing up so much and I still felt hung over the day after. I also was pretty hung over in Pamplona. They had a sangria party where they made 400 litres of the stuff. We then went out to watch the world cup quarter final and continued drinking. I mixed sangria and beer and spent about 12 hours straight drinking. The next day after three hours sleep I had to get straight on a bus and head into the town. Lets just say having a huge hang over with a cross of motion sickness does not go down well.

22. How many things have you lost during your travels? And did you find any treasure?

I've lost pretty much everything - jacket, hair straightener (although I think this was stolen), adapter, toiletries bag (not my make up thank god my other one), sunnies, torch, travel towel. Its all just stuff though. As long as I have the important stuff its just more of an inconvenience then anything else. I have also broken two handbags, a pair of sunnies (I'm now onto my third pair - that I actually scratched about 30 mins after I bought them), split a pair of pants and worn out a pair of shoes. I haven't found any treasures except for scoring a few good books in book exchanges.

23. Did you encounter any really rude people during your travels?

Everyday. I've learnt to mostly just shrug it off though. The Spanish were so loud and pushy so it was a bit annoying but that's just how they are. The French in Paris are really rude but in Bordeaux and Tours they were actually really nice. I've met a few people along the way that start paying out Aussies and our accents and while I can take it in good fun most of the time there were a few people that were just arrogant and rude about it.

24. How many new card games have you learnt?

Only one. Called 'presidents and arseholes' or 'scum' (depending who I play it with). Its pretty easy and most people have either heard about it or played it before. It gets interesting when you play it with two decks and I have spent a few hours passing time playing it. I've also played many rounds of kings which is always fun. Learnt a good drinking card game too which is quick and easy and gets the party started.

25. Did you have any wild debates with strangers during your travels? If so what was it about?

No wild debates. Just shared heaps of stories about travel experiences. What to see where, what to avoid, where not to stay, what to eat. Had a few arguments with a couple of people about the world cup which is strange because usually I'm not a fan of football but I found myself getting really passionate about the games. Especially as I was in Spain for fives games which they all won.

26. What is the kindest thing a stranger has done for you during your travels?

When Caroline was sick I had to check us out of the hostel and they were wondering why I was checking out two days early and I started to get upset. The check in guy sat me down and did all the paperwork, called me a cab, wrote down the address, carried my bag to the car and told me that if I ever needed help to call him and he would sort it out. It wasn't even in his job description and he was so genuine it was nice to meet someone like that.

27. How many people do you think you have meet during your trip?

A million. Not really. Well there were the 40 of us on Topdeck, I hung out with about 10 people during the running of the bulls, and with Busabout there is always someone new to meet. I've made six or so good friends from Busabout and have enjoyed days chatting to people and then going our separate ways never to meet again. I've even spent entire days or bus rides talking to people and never finding out their name. Its hard to say but its probably in the hundreds when you really think about it. Hopefully I can keep in contact with the few that I really liked and hook up with them in my travels one day.

28. If you could change anything about your trip what would it be?

I would be a millionaire. So I didn't always have to eat tomato crackers and could flash out and try snails in France. Or I could do all the tours I wanted to do. I could have sky dived in the Swiss Alps, gone to the chateaus and winery's in Tours, I could have done a Spanish cooking class in Barcelona, I could drink nice wine instead of cheap petrol tasting stuff. I know part of being a backpacker is being poor but sometimes you have to sacrifice some of the experience.

29. On reflection did you pack anything really stupid that you wish you had left behind?

No actually! I've been pretty chuffed that I've used or worn everything in my backpack. I'm kicking myself that I didn't bring my lappy or at least something that connects to WiFi. It would have been worth the extra weight and security measures to connect to all the free WiFi and have somewhere to store my stuff. In saying that I was lucky that Caroline had her Itouch so it wasn't too bad. Most of Spain had free internet access which helped because I was there for about two weeks.

30. Do you still call Australia home?

I always will call Australia home but I will never be satisfied. There is always some where else to discover, new countries to explore, new people to meet, new food to taste and always always something different to experience. I want to freeze my age at 23 because the older I get the less time I have to travel the world. I hate it when people say 'its always going to be there' That is fine but I'm not always going to be here. Ahhhhhhhhh so many places to see!!! so little time!!!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I Heart London

Here I was thinking that being in one spot, with my own laptop, easy access to the net and being unemployed - I would be able to blog more often. I clearly underestimated how cool London is and how busy I would be catching up with friends, exploring my area, looking for work and finding a place to live. Its been hectic! But I am absolutely LOVING it!

So its been just over a week since I posted last so I will fill you in on what I have been out and about doing.


Today I caught up with my kiwi girls from Topdeck and had a lazy chat sunning ourselves in the park. Later that night I caught up with my Californian girls from Busabout and we were joined by Leanne one of my Kiwi girls and we headed into Chinatown for a cheap meal and then onto Soho for a few drinks. The food was amazing and definitely cheap! I will be heading back into Chinatown and working my way along the streets of restaurants to find the best food. Once we were out in Soho it was just me and my Cali girls and we hit up a couple of bars before stumbling across a bucks night all dressed up in tweed coats and poor boy caps. We joined them on their drinking trail around the city and discovered a cool bar that I will definitely be hitting up again later. Since we were all London newbies it took me a little while to work out how to get home and I ended up making it in the door at 5am while the sun was coming up.


After a bit of a sleep in (can you blame me really?) I spent the afternoon flat hunting. There is a site over here called Gumtree and its basically a classifieds website but it has heaps of flats and rooms for rent on there. After trawling it over a few days and then narrowing the search I went and checked out a place only to decide that is exactly what I didn't want! That night I had a nice lazy night and watched a movie while I recovered from the night before.


I had another flat viewing today and made my way out to Southfields (near wimbledon) where I checked out a room and pretty much fell in love with it and the area. Since the rent was at the right price and I got everything I needed I decided to take the room. That arvo I had a quick lunch with my Cali girls before we bought tickets to Dirty Dancing. That night Morgan, Danielle, Leanne and I went and saw the show in celebration of me getting a flat, Leanne nabbing a job and the fact my Cali girls were leaving soon and it would be our last outing together. The show was great although a little bit different then I expected. When Johnny said 'Nobody puts Baby in a corner' and I heard the first strains of 'Time of your life' it completely made my night. After the show me and the Cali girls had a few drinks at a pub nearby and a very sad goodbye.


I woke up to a phone call from a recruitment agency asking me to come in and register with them as they had a position they thought would suit my job skills. This meant I spent the morning doing typing and grammar tests online before trying (fairly unsuccessfully) to pack all my belongings I had managed to obtain over four months into a manageable load. To move between where I was staying and where I was going to be living was about a 45 min tube journey not to mention the walks to and from the stations. I did this trip with my backpack on bursting point, day pack, laptop, bag of food and handbag chockers with random crap. Once I arrived at my place, grabbed my keys and dumped by bag - I had an hour and a half to get ready for my interview and get back over that side of town. One quick change and rushed ironing job later my new room looked like a bomb site and I was on my way. The interview went really well and I had a chance to chat to two people about what I was looking for and the role they were putting me forward for. They seemed fairly confident they would find me something and it was nice to know that they already had me in mind for something.

After my interview I speedily headed home and finally unpacked everything after four months on the road. There are no words to describe the satisfaction of hanging something up in a wardrobe and putting things away in drawers. I know I sound incredibly nerdy and lame here but you talk to anyone else in the same boat and they will tell you the same. That night I headed over to Clapham Junction which is about a 20 min busride away from where I am staying to meet up with all the people from Topdeck that were in London. A few of them are living around that area which is good to know they are close by and we all caught up over a few drinks. We pretty much were all still jobless and only a few of us had places to live. Several of us were still on blow up mattresses and searching for something more permanent then a temp role or bar job. I know that we will all end up with something more permanent and eventually we will all be able to look back on this stressful time and laugh but it was pretty nice to know I wasn't the only one in that situation.

After a few drinks we grabbed some cheap wine and headed over to the Vietnamese restaurant where we had made our booking. Since we were 45 mins late they had given our table away. After waiting about 15 minutes on the footpath we decided to head to the Indian restaurant next door that wasn't actually BYO but allowed us to drink our grog in there anyway. The food was delicious and we had a great time drinking and eating - gossiping about people we knew and sharing travel stories. After the restaurant kicked us out at about 12am we decided to get the bus to Clapham Common which was an area nearby with a few bars because we were all unemployed and didn't have to worry about getting up in the morning. We found a place that was still open and had a couple more drinks before heading home in the wee hours of 3am. So my first night staying at new place I didn't meet any of my house mates and stumbled in at 3am. Not the best way to start your time in a new place but oh well!


After a seedy morning me and a few of the girls headed into Hyde Park for a bit of a picnic and chill out session. It was a good way to get out of the house and have a final catch up before going our separate ways again (at least for now). After snacking on nibblies we had a wander around the park and checked out the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain which I expected to be a big statue fountain where instead it was just like a normal paddling pool. There were little kids in their swimmers splashing around. At first I was a little startled and thought ' Wow if this was my memorial I would be pissed!' but after awhile you saw how much fun they were having and how it was different then what you would usually expect and I decided it was actually kind of cool. After a quick look in a couple of shops in Oxford Street we spend the arvo chilling at Leannes crash pad watching tv and bumming around. Oh the life of the unemployed!


Moving day again! This time it was Leanne shifting from her crash pad to her new place and as I knew how hard it was to be a pack horse I was more then willing to help when asked. We made our way across town and into her new place. It was nice to be a bit nosy and check out her flat. She has a great place and its so handy she is so close by because it means when we want to catch up its not a massive trek across town. It also means eventually we can go to the same gyms and catch up for coffees and movies close by. There were also many pubs along the bus route so I expect there will be a bit of time spent testing out these places. After a quick unpack and a snack we headed down to the local shopping centre that is pretty much exactly in between both of us. We both stocked up on bed linen and housewares and after lugging a chunk of stuff around we had a nice relaxing coffee in Starbucks. I have actually really missed having girly coffee chats so it was fun to do something with a bit of normality like shopping and coffee.


Today was cleaning day. Whilst my house was relatively tidy sharing with four boys meant it didnt really have the cleanliness that a girl would like. After a few hours doing my washing and scrubbing the kitchen so it shined I realised that I must be growing up if finding something neat and tidy was the most satisfying thing I did all day. That arvo I caught up with Leanne and Toni (it turns out this whole week pretty much consisted of Bronnie & Leanne dates - which was really fun and I will be lost without her when she starts work this week!) at the shopping centre and grabbed a few more things for the house. That night after a quick Pimms at Leannes place we headed into Picadilly Circus to a place called Tiger Tiger for dinner with a friend of mine Danielle whom I had met on Busabout. We had grabbed a mojito during happy hour (only 3 pounds!) before getting a table for dinner. The food was really yummy and it was good to catch up with Danielle and meet her friend Estelle who was also new to London. After dinner we headed downstairs to the 'groovy wonderland' bar that had an old school disco dancefloor and girls in retro clothing dancing on rollerskates. After a bit of a groove to old school music we headed home before the tubes stopped running and we were stuck on night buses again. The last thing I needed was another night getting home in the early morning!


Only in England is it ok to be at the pub at 10.30 in the morning. I was there to watch the All Blacks vs Wallabies rugby match with the kiwi girls and a friend from Topdeck Amy (who was also a kiwi). She was there with a few of her friends which meant I ended up being the only Aussie. In fact I was the only Aussie in the whole entire pub. Considering we got completely dominated 48 - 26 or something I am glad that I didn't rock up in any Australian colours or bearing any stick on Aussie tattoos (which I had considered). The rest of the day was spent bumming around with the girls, grabbing lunch at the flat and checking out the area around Clapham Junction. That night we had a quiet one and headed to the movies. It was a bit weird that on a Saturday night all together in London we were being nanna's but over here it doesn't matter what night you do anything and since I am unemployed every day seems to feel like the weekend.

I wont bore you with my lazy Sunday but it consisted of hanging out with a friend while we enjoyed a pub lunch, stroll around the park and grabbing a beer in another pub. I love London.

I would only love it a tiny bit more if I actually had a job! It would mean a big weight off my shoulders and a bit more money to check out more exciting things then my local area! Still in between all the adventures I have just told you about were many hours online applying for many jobs. I have a couple of interviews this week with recruitment agencies and a list of contacts to call tomorrow morning bright and early. Hopefully my next post is about an awesome job score! Or at least a mediocre job - to be honest it could be a completely shit job. I just want one!