Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halfway There

Last weekend I crossed off my 50th thing to do in the London Top 100! I can’t believe how quickly I got through them all! Although admittedly I did have a head start on some of them as being in London a year already I was bound to do some of them. Still! I would say that the majority have been done in the last couple of months which is a pretty good effort even if I do say so!

So what was the big 5-0? The British Museum - which maybe should have been done before the 50 mark but lets just say better late then never. I met Shea (who else but my P.I.C for such an occasion) and we visited the Tea and Tattle tea shop located opposite the museum. Its tucked away underneath a book shop/art gallery and is a great place to have a cuppa and some scones either after or before your mission to the museum. After we were fed and watered we popped across the road and into the main doors of the British Museum.

Its funny that its called the British Museum really beceause there is nothing particularly british about it. It should really be called the museum of things we stole form other places when we invaded. Did you know they have the largest amount of Egyptian artifacts in the world outside Egypt? There are probably figures missing all through the pyramids that are just happily sitting in the Museum. Saying that though it was amazing to see and we wandered through the galleries for awhile. It was good for Shea as she was off to Egypt in a couple of weeks so it was all pretty interesting. It was also quite cool to see the Rosetta Stone which was a tablet that helped translate Egyptian hieroglyphs.

From there we worked our way slowly around the the rest of the museum gazing at the artifacts and checking out what else was available. We found a really awesome exhibition (the name escapes me at the moment) that was about life and death. It was how different cultures celebrate life and death which was really interesting. They also had a display of the medication that an average person takes in their every day life. It had tablets in a mesh runner that went on for meters and was still rolled up at each end. It really make you think about how much we rely on medication to get better and how much you are putting into your body.

After a couple of hours my attention span was waning (as it generally does in museums) and it was time to get a bit of fresh air so we wandered out of the museum and got completely lost as we went out a different exit but happily found we were near Russel square. We walked through and it was nice to see all the trees dropping their leaves with all the browns and oranges and seeing all the squirrels scurrying around collecting for the winter. Was a great way to end a perfect day by wandering through the falling autumn leaves.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bat Out Of Halloween

It's that time of the year again! The clocks are turning back, they afternoons are getting shorter, the air is getting colder and all of London is getting creepier - Halloween! Last year my Halloween was full of crazy costume parties dressed as crocodiles and witches so this year it was fun to do something a little different.

My Halloweekend started with work drinks on the Friday night which were Halloween themed. It was my teams turn to host the drinks so we went all out with decorations, themed food, costume competitions and of course our own costumes - corpse brides. We started getting ready at about 3.30pm because it took us at least 45 minutes to do our make up. It was worth it in the end though because I think we all looked pretty scary!

Thankfully, all the hard work wasn't just for work drinks and I went out after (yes I looked like that on the tube) to a club night in Kings Cross called Bat Out Of Halloween. It was a power ballads club night. Oh yeah. Passion fists, singing with your eyes closed, belting it out at the top of your lungs and playing air guitar - not just something you do at 4am in a lame nightclub - this was a whole club night dedicated to it. And it was so much fun!

I thought I knew a lot of power ballads (I mean I've spent my fair share of time in cheesy nightclubs) but man I was no match for this DJ. There were a few choice ones and good old classics -

The Voice - John Farnham,
Don't Stop Believing - Journey,
Where ever you will go - The Calling,
Its all coming back to me - Celine Dion

and my favourite

I will always love you - Whitney Houston

The rest of the night was spent drinking and dancing (as most of my weekend nights are spent really) and by the end of the night we all had horse throats and sore legs. Due to Kings Cross being North East and we living South West the night bus journey home was a bit of a mission and we ended up making our way through our door at about 4am. It then took me about half an hour to get my make up off so I wasn't ending up with 'skin rot' and black paint all over my pillow. The crappy thing about London is sometimes the journey home being so long but at the end of the day I'd rather have an awesome night out with a long journey home then just an average one nearby. And Power ballads was WELL worth it. I will definitely be brushing up on my lyric knowledge and air guitar skills before I head back!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Amongst It

A few posts ago I told you guys about Holes and Poles my Try Tag Rugby team. Well once we started a new season we changed our name to Amongst It as that term was commonly used in our group to describe... well pretty much anything. We played a second season over at Canada Water under our new alias and we did pretty well. Nothing to great but also nothing too bad and we were happy around the middle of the ladder.

Once it came to Autumn we had to change pitches and we moved onto astro turf (due to it being floodlit) over at Borough. I'm not sure if it was because we finally came together after three seasons of playing or if the shorter field meant it was slightly easier for us girls to keep up with the boys but we went from average - to awesome. I know this is going to sound slightly braggy but we really were! Our first three games we won 15 -6, 17 - 5 and 22 - 7. With only one loss under our belt (12-11...guts!) we went into the grand final feeling pretty nervous. We were playing the only team that had ever beaten us and it was going to be a close game.

When I say 'we' in all this I actually mean my team mates. Due to my knee injury in Croatia I wasn't able to play for the rest of the season. Emily kindly stepped in to take my place and I had to watch from the sidelines - which was complete torture! I missed playing so much that sometimes I couldn't even go and watch because it was so frustrating. However there was no way I was missing the final and so I and about 7 other supporters stood on the sideline to watch Amongst It play.

It was a close game with Amongst It only being one point up at most times, there was even a moment when we were drawing. It was a pretty intense game and there was lots of pressure and close calls which had those of us on the sidelines biting our nails. Thankfully towards the end Ness scored two girl tries (they are worth two points) to give us a comfortable lead for the last few minutes of the game. In the end Amongst it won 13-9 and we were relieved and happy with the result. The last two tries earned Ness joint man of the match with Rob who was tough in defense so not only was it a win for the team but an extra win for two of our team mates!

From there it was onto the pub for the presentation and some well earned beers. It was sad to see the tag season end for Amongst It for the year as we weren't entering the next season. There were a few injuries, someone leaving London, three people on long holidays so it didn't seem worth it. Hopefully we can enter into late winter/early spring and we can hopefully dominate that new field. Sadly I think I am in tag retirement due to my knee which brings a disappointing end to my tag career. I think I was finally starting to learn the rules too!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Robin Hood

It has started coming to that time in my London Life where I have to start saying goodbye to some really good friends due to visas, different travel plans and people not wanting to suffer through another English winter. Sadly these reasons mean I have to say goodbye to three of my topdeck family members. It had been so long since we had been on a 'family' holiday with the Topdeck crew that we thought it was about time we went on another - a perfect way to party together before we had to say goodbye. The trouble was we couldn't settle on somewhere that 14 people with a passion for travel hadn't already been before.

We tossed up between Liverpool and Isle of Wight before Candra just made a command decision to go to Nottingham. I'm glad she did because we got the chance to explore somewhere we might not have usually picked. After doing a bit of research we found that Nottingham is not only famous for the adventures of Robin Hood but also has England's oldest inn and apparently a pretty awesome nightlife. Which is exactly what we were in the need of!

We headed up to Nottingham on the Saturday morning which is only an hour and a half away and we were all pretty chuffed because we had scored first class tickets! (Oh how we love train special deals) So we did the trip up in style and arrived just in time to dump our bags at the hotel before heading into town to go to the oldest inn in England for lunch. The Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem is built into the side of the wall surrounding the castle and was established in 1189. We were lucky enough that it wasn't too busy and since it was a sunny day we grabbed two tables outside, grabbed some drinks and had some food while we all caught up and chatted. Sean had bought some of their traditional Ale which I had a sip of and it tasted like it was from 1189. Yuck.

From there we went on a wander around the town and first stop was the statue of Robin Hood right outside the castle. We all took this chance to get a few funny photos and muck around before heading up through the castle gates. By this time it was getting later in the afternoon and none of us were really in the mood for history (shameful I know) so we opted out of visiting the castle and instead visited the gift shop where we bought felt hats and bows and arrows. This meant there were more photos in front of Robin Hood before heading further into the city centre to check out down town Nottingham. The city of Nottingham is pretty much similar to the centre of most English cities with all the shops, a main square and a few bars and restaurants around. After a quick sticky beak we went back to the hotel to have a few drinks and get ready for a night out.

We played a few drinking games before heading to a nearby Wetherspoons for a cheap meal and cheap drinks before heading straight to Oceana nightclub. We had found out this was the place to go by a random stag night and I would have to say their recommendation was pretty good. It was a pretty cheesy place with a light up dancefloor and lots of old school music but it was exactly what we wanted for a night out. It meant we could drink and dance and sing along in a big group, not annoy anyone and just enjoy a good night out.

The next morning we were up bright and early to head to the walkabout to watch the grand final of the Rugby World Cup. As you know I have lots of Kiwi friends so they were excited that they were in the final and wouldn't have missed it for the world. We grabbed some cooked breakfast and some snakebites and settled in to watch the match. It was quite a close game and was so suspenseful to watch but in the end the Kiwi's pulled through and they won. Leaving all my friends pretty happy! We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling in the walkie and wandering the shops before getting the 3pm train home.

We had intended to check out Sherwood Forest after the match but due to the Sunday time table we weren't able to make it back in time to catch our train. I was pretty disappointed we didn't get to do much of the touristy stuff however I had a great time just hanging out with my Topdeck Family (plus new members) and spending time with Sean, Toni and Clare before they had to leave. Sadly they have all now left us for bigger and brighter adventures and while I am sad to see them go, I am extremely jealous of their upcoming travel. I will miss them heaps but we have a few new members of the London family so I don't have to worry about being a loner just yet!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

If you had told me...

...when I was in Grade 12 in high school that 7 years later that two of my best guy friends and I would end up being in London together for one weekend I would have probably laughed. But that is exactly what happened!

I recently blogged about spending time with Dan and Katie before they went on their Europe trip but now they are back and ready and raring to live the London Life. They arrived on Tuesday of last week and crashed with me while they set about looking for flats, jobs, meeting new people and dealing with the cold. I was happy to have them back, hear all about their stories and spend time with good mates again after feeling a little homesick after saying goodbye to Ali. While they were travelling they had both met up with James who had been travelling the world for eight months with London the last stop on his adventure.

James arrived on Friday so we had planned a big night of dinner, drinks and catching up! We were joined by my housemates Sammy G and Lance and went to a local oriental restaurant in Putney - appropriately called Friends. Where we chatted over yummy food and had some wine before heading a few doors down to one of my favourite places in London - Citizen Smith. It is famous for its cocktails and we soon got on our way taste testing the menu and sampling the STRONGEST Long Island Iced Tea I’ve ever had (it was also the yummiest but that didn’t make me feel better in the morning when I had a headache). We spent the night on the dancefloor, just mucking around and having fun before heading back to ours for a nightcap.

The next morning we were treated to a gorgeous sunny day which wasn’t too cold considering we are in October! Now, I’ve forgotten to mention in all this that Dan and Katie had found a flat on Thursday night, so we spent the morning helping them move into their flat. The move was relatively easy considering we got a minicab to drive us and there was 4 of us to carry it up the stairs to the third floor - the only hard part was the hangover. We had a quick squiz at the new flat (its lovely!) and met their new housemates before me and James left them to it and went off to H&M on a shopping mission.

As we were wandering down the road we saw the London Tram which I had never been on so we found a platform and jumped on it and took the exciting journey (not) two stops down to Wimbledon. Handily for us this is where our H&M shopping mission began as we were looking not only for clothes for ourselves but for some cheap matchy shirts for us to wear to watch the rugby. After about an hour Dan and Katie joined us to check out a few more stores before we headed back to the train station to catch a train down to Kingston where we could enjoy the sunny weather by the river.

Once we got to Kingston we wandered through the main streets where there are lots of shops and LOTS of people and found our way down to the river. We snapped a quick photo on the bridge (before my camera died) and we went along to try to find a spot to grab a drink and eat. It didn’t look like we were going to have much luck as we weren’t the only ones who decided to check out Kingston but we found a possie next to the river outside Woody’s Bar and Kitchen and grabbed a drink while we waiting for a table to free up. We waited like hawks until a table was free and once on was we grabbed it (fighting off a family and kids while we were at it) and ordered some food. We decided on a massive sharing platter, hand cut chips and some onion rings. As we were ordered I asked the waitress what sauce we could get and she listed a few so James just suggested ‘bring us all of them, surprise us’ so in the end she came back with all our few including our sauce sample plate with eight different sauces on them. Delicious! Not only was the food amazing but the weather was fantastic and the company was unbeatable. Couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable afternoon. Woody’s Bar and Kitchen is now one of my favourite places to go and will definitely go back out there - even on a rainy day the inside cafe is gorgeous.

A friend of Dan and Katies had bought them tickets to see The Lion King theatre show so we said goodbye to them at Kingston before James and I headed to Brick Lane for a BYO curry dinner with a few of my friends. Ended up being a bit of an eclectic group of people attending the dinner as we were all friends with my friend Candra. Some of us (James for example) were friends of friends and others had met her once while she was au pairing in Austria and met up again this evening. Quite crazy how we were all connected and at one point I worked out that we had people from five different countries (England, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and America) sitting at a table all because we met Candra! Quite cool when you think about it!

Sunday morning was spent down at my local pub watching the Rugby World Cup Semi Final between Australia and New Zealand. We had managed to find matching shirts so we were there bright and early in our green and gold where we met up with a few of my friends and my housemates who were our token Kiwis. As you guys know the Kiwi’s won which was a bit disappointing for Australia but good for the hosts to get to the final! I had to go and visit my friend who was sick so I said goodbye to James, Dan and Katie and left them to an afternoon drinking in the common and eating roasts at a pub.

By the time Sunday night rolled around I was in my Sunday blues - because James was leaving on Monday :(. I was lucky enough to get a lunch date at work before he left but was still sad to say goodbye! I know its not long now until I see him again but it was so much fun to have the crew back together again! Yes we were missing a few members but overall it was just great to have people who know your history, already have personal jokes and just spend the whole time laughing with. Luckily for me Dan and Katie are sticking around so I’m sure we will have a few more awesome weekends ahead!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Croatia Sailing

Ever since my stint in Europe last summer there has been one place I've wanted to go back to the most and this was Croatia. My two days there last year just weren't enough and I was so excited to get back there for a whole nine days to go on Croatia Sailing with my sister Ali, and her friend Monique. Many of my friends had recommended Croatia Sailing to me so I was looking forward to getting some sun, swimming in the ocean (for the first time in over a year) and catching up with my sis who I hadn't seen since her visit in January.

I took a day off on the Friday and flew into Split early in the morning so we had a whole day to explore the city before boarding our boat the next day. After dumping my backpack and checking out our hostel we decided to hire some bikes and ride out of the city centre and down to the beach. We took a few wrong turns but finally made it to the beach which was very different then what we are used to. The beach was sandy but full of grass and the water was crystal clear but very shallow meaning we had to walk for about 100 metres before we were even close to being waist deep. We decided that after our long (read: 20 min) bike ride it was time for beer o'clock so we parked our bikes up and got a local beer. The girls filled me in on all their stories from Greece and Oktoberfest while I soaked up the sun and the beer.

After a couple of beers and a quick swim it was time to go for another ride so we rode back into town to try and find another beach but after getting lost again we gave up and decided to check out the markets instead. We wandered through the old palace walls before giving in to the heat and heading back to our room. Ali hadn't been feeling too well and I was exhausted due to an 6 am flight so we went back for a snooze before heading out for dinner and a few drinks. We didn't want to have too big of a night because we were on the boat the next day so we were early to bed!

Day 1: Milna

The next day we grabbed breakfast at a cafe before heading down to the docks to find our boat - Vgrada. It was docked behind another boat so it took us a little while to find it but once we got on we checked in, met our Scottish guide Fi and started chatting to our other crewmates. After lunchtime we set sail for Milna we had lunch on the boat before a swim stop. I was so excited to get straight into that ocean as it had been over a year since I'd been for a swim in the sea. I jumped off the top deck straight into crystal blue water and had heaps of fun splashing around and sitting on the floaties.

The rest of the afternoon was spent drinking beers up on the deck, lazing in lounge chairs and reading or snoozing. Once we docked we went on a quick walking tour of the town and got to check out a local winery and taste some local grappa before heading back to the boat for dinner. After dinner on the boat we had happy hour at the bar on the boat with a few drinking games before heading on shore to hit a few bars. This was the first of many many cocktails consumed on the trip.

Day 2: Hvar

The next day we were up bright and early for breakfast before a long hard day of relaxing on the boat. Lots of sleeping on sun chairs, swimming at swim stops, card playing and all around lazing about. We arrived in Hvar around 4.30 where we jumped off the boat and headed up to the fort on top of the hill. It was gorgeous views and well worth the 15 min up hill walk. We then headed to the Hula Hula bar which has amazing peach daiquiri's as well as an amazing view. Along the way we played the 'toad' game which means that whoever is wearing a pair of floaties is the toad master. Every time you yell out toad everyone has to jump down on the ground and act like a toad. The last one to get to the ground then becomes the toad master. Sounds a bit silly but its pretty funny when there are 30 of you doing it in the middle of the street. From Hula Hula we went to a couple of other places (I'm not sure of their names) where we had a few more drinks and then carved up the dance floor until the wee hours.

Day 3: Korcula

As the last night had ended fairly early (or late depending how you see it) the boat was fairly quite in the morning with many people taking naps or just lazing around quietly. We had quite a long swim stop on this day which meant there was lots of time to dive in and relax. Once we got to Korcula we had a fair bit of spare time to have a look around the cute little town and some space away from people on the boat. I had a great crew but sometimes hanging out with 30 people all at once was a bit too much so it was nice to take some time out with Ali and Monique and have a gelato and a drink in a cafe and a wander around the town.

That night we had a BBQ on the boat before heading out for Cocktails at massimo bar which is at the top of the tower. You have to climb up a ladder and once you have ordered your drinks they get bought up by pulley! From there we went to another bar that served cocktails in pitchers which even included a stripper pole. Thankfully most of our crew stayed away from the stripper pole but it made for interesting viewing on the outside wall!

Day 4: Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is pretty much favourite place in the world and that didn't really change when I visited it this time around. It was awesome to see it from the water this time as we sailed into the harbor. We got to have a swim stop right near the fortress wall of the city which made for an amazing backdrop to our swimming. We had a whole afternoon in Dubrovnik to roam around. Fi showed us around to an amazing gelati place and then to a cliff side bar where we could bask in the sun and grab a pint. Since I had already been up to the wall of the city I decided to skip that and wander through the cute old town and just people watch and roam around.

That night we went to a couple of places that serve their cocktails in buckets before heading off to a proper club. It was another pretty big night out but a good one dancing in a proper club - that was until I hurt my knee. I just must have twisted the wrong way and my knee (which is already slightly dodgy) swelled up and started to hurt.

Day 5: Miljet

After a big night and a sore knee I was feeling pretty sorry for myself so it was good that the day we went to Miljet was a quiet one. We had a swim stop as usual and there were a few nanna naps and relaxing out on the deck. Once we docked the rest of the crew headed onshore and went for a tour around the national park. As it was a fair bit of walking I decided to pass and rest my knee (and the rest of me) and have a snooze up on deck. Refreshed from my nap I was ready to go on shore out to dinner and for a drink at the bar built into an old fortress. We sat outside in the cool breeze for awhile and got to play with some of the local (and most likely stray) cats. I'm not usually a cat person but they were just so cute!

Day 6: Makarska

The next day was a quick trip from Miljet to Makarska where we got probably some of our most onshore time. We got to wander through quite a cute little town that was very resort, water sport and holiday focused. Less like some of the other places we had been to that had an old town this place was very much focused around the beaches and ports. We wandered through the markets down to the beach where we watched some of our crew do water sports.

Before wandering back through to the boat to get ready for our pirates/sailors party. We had happy hour on the boat before heading to a local cocktail bar which made the most.potent.cocktails.ever! Ali got one and it had about a thousand spirits in it with very little mixer. It was rocket fuel and trust me Croatians are big believers in free pour. It wasn't a big night though as there had been so many big nights along the way so we grabbed a delicious panini and headed back to the boat for bed.

Day 7: Split via Omis

Our last day on the boat! Was a little sad at the end of it but overall I was pretty ready to get off. Before heading into Split we were up bright and early to go to Omis where we went white water rafting. I had never done white water rafting before and I was really excited about giving it a go. It was a bit hard with my knee being sore but I managed to bend it enough when needed so it wasn't too bad. I had a great time and would love to give it another go because much of it was just rowing down a steady river with only a few little rapids. The rapids were fun when we went across them but they were few and far between.

After the rafting we jumped back on the boat to head to Split. With one last swim stop just outside the city we cruised on in and docked for the evening. For our last night we all grabbed our own food and met in the square in the middle of the palace walls and just chilled out. From there we went to another bar where I met up with Britt and Luke who I had worked with at my old job. They were both on different sail boats but we fluked all being in Split for the same night so a catch up was definitely needed.

Early the next morning we jumped off the boat and said a few goodbyes before heading with some of the crew to a nearby bar that was playing the AFL grand final. Ali and I snacked on Vegemite crackers while watching it (even though we weren't MASSIVE fans) and just hang about a little bit before we could check into the hostel. Once we checked in we were pleased to find a cute, clean, fresh and NEW flat. We had a bit of a look around before heading out into the town, do some window shopping and grabbing some food. As we were wandering around we ran into some crewmates so we made a plan to do dinner that evening. We headed back to the flat and had a much needed nap in a clean fresh bed, in air con and with black out curtains - best nap ever. We then all had a long long long shower and got clean from head to toe, got a little bit dressed up (in the only clean clothes we had left) and headed into the town to grab dinner. We found a cute little resturant, had a good chat and good meal before heading back to bed (again, because yes we were SO exhausted).

The next day we were up bright and early to get to Zadar where our flight was from. It ended up being cheaper to get a 3 hour bus to Zadar and fly from there rather then flying directly out of Split. Cheaper but not easier. Want to hear our journey home?

3 hour bus ride from Split to Zadar
1.5 hour wait at the bus station in Zadar for a bus to the Airport
30 min bus ride to the airport
30 min check in time because Ali had to repack her backpack twice because she was over her limit
1.5 hour wait until our plane flight
2 hour plane ride
45 in customs/baggage carosel
1.5 hour bus ride to tube station - where we found out the tubes were down
10 mins waiting for a train
10 min train ride
10 min waiting for a bus
15 min bus ride

and then home.

It doesn't sound good and you are probably thinking was it worth it... but between us we saved about £300. Which is A LOT.

Overall I had an amazing time away - lots of sun and sea which was long over due. Also had a fab time just chilling with my sis and exploring another country. Was a little sad to have a holiday end but with Ali staying on for a few days in London it wasn't quite over just yet. We had a few days of catching up with friends, family and spending quality time together before she jetted off. Wasn't such a sad goodbye because I know I will see her soon - still its never easy saying goodbye to a loved one. You would think I would be a pro by now after all my visitors but it always leaves me in a bit of a funk. Still! I am lucky to have visitors at all and very lucky to have had such an awesome week with my sis.