Saturday, 22 November 2008

Blogger's Fatigue

One may ask, "How can Traveller possibly have blogger's fatigue when she hasn't blogged for over a month or more?" Well, the truth is, T has been blogging. In her head. She has blogged about her trip to Berlin, her trip to Dublin, her new job, and her various other adventures in London town. The only missing link has been the actual time needed to transfer said blogs from T's head to the computer.

So, with a head full of potential blog fodder, T has reached the point where she needs to put pen to paper, so to speak.

One of T's favourite European cities so far because it is simply where history books really come to life. One can walk from East to West Berlin and pass Hitler's bunker, Checkpoint Charlie, sniper towers, the spot where the burning of the books happened, the Berlin Wall and much more. Also, as those who know him can imagine, Hubbie was in foodie heaven with all of the various sausages on offer. Unbelievably though, he ate sausages with every meal.

Our most favourite experience in Berlin was the Fat Tire Bike Tour. The bike tour started in the centre of the city at 11am and we finished at 4pm after riding 16 kilometres around the city! We saw every possible sight and were filled in with interesting historical information as we rode around. The tour guides were young, fun and had History degrees, which made all the dark history quite digestible. The highlight of the tour was the lunch stop at a traditional German restaurant where we munched on schnitzel and sausages and drank some lovely German beer.

The tour guide, in the middle of the cyclists...

The Berlin Wall

Upon telling anyone in London that you are going on a visit to Dublin for the weekend, it is met with much enthusiastic response. They love the city and it is the host of many Londoner's stag and hen's nights and various other parties. Hub's and T were excited about their weekend away and while it they had many fun experiences, it wasn't their favourite European hot spot. We had some fabulous fish and chips, visited the infamous Guiness factory (which is definitely worth it) and saw the Book of Kells in the Trinity College Library. Aside from that, there isn't much else to report! We do want to go back to Ireland, but next time, see more of what they are truly famous for, their beautiful countryside.

The New Job
After working for a recruitment firm in the city for over 6 months, Traveller was truly missing her profession and had been looking around for the 'perfect' teaching job. Now teaching jobs in London are not shortcoming, but 'perfect' teaching jobs are few and far between. London 'state' schools are notorious for their misbehaving, knive-toting students, and are places where 'teaching' is really just a euphemism for crowd control. However, there is a bright rainbow over this dark cloud of teaching prospects and that is, the independent school!

Independent schools are privately owned and operated and are schools where the parents are paying for their child's education, thus putting the pressure on the student to behave and achieve. T was lucky enough to be offered a position in a preparatory school in North London where she is the Head of English and Drama. It is an all boys' school of 200 students and while it is challenging and lots of hard work, it is an excellent learning experience and a step forward for T.

On the job, Traveller is learning that although boys can be malodorous and boisterous, they are quite fun to teach due to their competitive nature. And yes, as you can imagine, T's psuedo-English accent is getting way out of control due to speaking to 'posh' English boys all day.

The one catch upon accepting the position was that T had to accept the job on a two year basis, which means T and her hubs won't be coming home permanently until July 2010 at the earliest.

So life in London lives on, and T and hubs are looking forward to a brief sojourn home in December and many more European experiences in the new year.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

A Norweigan Adventure

Earlier this month, Traveller and her hubbie had the delightful opportunity to visit the Norweigan capital - Oslo- for a whirlwind weekend getaway. Now many of you may not have even considered Oslo as a city worth a visit during a European holiday but - T assures you - it is fabulous!

Now firstly, T must explain the nature of a 'whirlwind' weekend getaway. T and hub awoke at the unseemly hour of 3am, to make it into to Oslo by around 10am on a Saturday morning. They then flew home late the following evening! This may all seem a bit much but it was well worth it!

The first thing that T and hubbie noticed about Oslo was that it was a beautiful city. The most beautiful part about it was that it is set at the very end of the Norweigan Fjords - and is thus, close to the mountains and the water.

Most interesting food - Reindeer Cakes

The first thing that Hubbie likes to do when visiting a new country is to find the most strange and interesting part of local cuisine and dig in. Oslo was no different. Upon arriving in the capital, we located a restaurant that served traditional Norweigan food, and Hubbie helped himself to Reindeer Cakes (kind of like meatballs). T wasn't quite so brave, and instead partook in an omelette!

Most appreciated part of the city infrastructure- transport!

Bike, ferry, bus, tram or train? These five modes of transport which are clean, fast and on-time ensure that you can get anywhere in Oslo very easily! T and hubbie loved the simple transport system in Oslo, it made seeing all the hot-spots super easy. (Puts the Gold Coast to shame!)

Eye-opening Moment

Oslo is host to Holmenkollen Ski Jump - a ski jump which was used for the Winter Olympics in 1952. The ski jump is found a few tram stops out of the city and, once having taking a trip in an elevator, you see just how steep a jump it is. The ski jump is host to some of the best views of Oslo and the Fjords that you can come across.

Best European Park (so far!) - Frognerparken

Frognerparken is host to the Vigeland Sculpture Park which features many sculptures by a Norweigan sculpture artist named Gustav Vigeland. The sculptures are wonderfully interesting and the park is beautiful.

First, and thus favourite castle - Akershus Castle and Fortress

It is hard to believe that after 8 months in London, T and hubs have only visited one castle. We are sure that there are more to come! The Akershus Castle and Fortress was built in the 1200s and is home to a beautiful view of the Oslofjord.

There are countless musueums, exhibitions and monuments worth visiting in Oslo - T and hubs had one of their best weekends so far touring this beautiful city and enjoying their first visit to a Scandinavian country.

Next stop: Berlin!

Friday, 12 September 2008

The Road is Long....

Well, T and hubbie have officially done it.
They, along with a couple of mates and a sibling, completed their first 10k run. Oh, and what a run it was! T, along with 30,000 other runners, trudged out to Wembley Stadium for a concert by Moby and Pendulum and then began the Nike Human Race.

Now, for all the beautiful landmarks in London, let's just say that Wembley (besides the stadium) isn't one of them. T began running from the stadium, through the streets of Wembley and then back again and - to be honest - it merely felt like an advertisement for Ikea and Tesco. The streets were dark, the rain poured down (T's shoes filled with water!) and the only thing to look at, besides the streams of runners, were enormous navy buildings filled with swedish furniture, not quite a London park or bridge!

However, just being a part of the race was fun. T scored two Nike T-shirts, some great memories and her best 10k time so far (58 mins). Traveller was also super happy to be completing the race with some great friends and, even better, her hubby who, in the last month, went from running 2ks to 10ks with ease.


Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Paris, Je t'aime!

Traveller and hubbie's Eurostar trip to Paris finally rolled around on the English long-weekend in August. T could not have been more excited - the thought of Parisian food, landmarks and hot-spots was too much! To put the icing on the cake, T and hubbie's French friend, Stephanie was putting them up for the weekend and being their own personal tour guide...c'est bon!

T's Favourite Parisian Moments....

* Travelling by the Eurostar - there really is no other way. A ten minute ride to St. Pancras International at King's Cross Station and then a two hour trip on the train, and you're in the middle of Paris.

* Being driven around the city by our guide - it gave a really clear view of Paris and where all the key sights are...and made us feel very Parisian!

* Having a drink at a terrace bar overlooking the Eiffel Tower and gazing at it all afternoon...

* Touring The Lourve - seeing the Mona Lisa is a must but it definitely isn't the only thing you should see. Many amazing paintings and sculptures are up for viewing.

* Walking around the streets of Montmarte and being reminded of one of our favourite French films - Amelie.

* Having dinner with (and staying with) our gracious hosts - Stephanie's grandparents. They cooked us a feast to be remembered! We began with champagne (of course) and then proceeded to make our way through three courses. We began with Roasted Guinea fowl accompanied by French beans, potatoes and wine. Then we moved on to the famous French cheese - Brie and Gruyere - which was amazing, easily the best cheese T has ever tasted! Then the meal was complete with a lovely fruit salad of all sorts of exotic fruits... yum!

Overall, it was our favourite weekend trip so far - there was so much to see, eat and experience. T and hubs now officially LOVE Paris and can't wait to go back.

A boat cruise looking at all the famous sights, such as Notre Dame....

Stephanie's lovely grandparents!

The beginnings of our french feast......

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

"Summer" in London

Summer in London, at the best of times, is a fickle thing. It can be very warm for a week, raining and freezing the next and then blistering hot for a few days after that. It is unpredicatable to say the least.

However, Traveller's most favourite 'Londoner' characteristic is their willingness to proceed even in the most extreme weather. This characteristic was best exampled when T, hubbie and their flatmates went to Somerset House for a Summer Screen session. This is the perfect opportunity to watch a film in the courtyard of Somerset House, whilst basking in the summer air, and perhaps even have partaking in a picnic. A lovely summer activity.

Well, a lovely summer activity if there isn't a torrential downpour....

All day T and her flatmates had been watching the weather. It was sunny, then cloudy, then rainy and then sunny again. We decided to brave it and head for the summer theatre. The film of the day was 'O Brother, Where Art Thou' and T was super excited, and apparently everyone else was as well because the session was completely sold out. This was when T witnessed the stoic nature of the Brits.
As they exited the tube, the rain started to pour down - the umbrellas were taken out and we hurried towards our destination. What was surprising, was that everyone else came along as well. The cinema-goers came in hoards decked out in ponchos, with umbrellas and picnic bags full of nibblies and wine. Traveller's own British flatmate taught us a lesson in preparing for outdoor events in London - she packed oodles of garbage bags, picnic blankets, umbrellas and even pillows to make sure we were organised for whatever weather the elements threw at us.

As the weather cleared before the entertainment began, T and friends made themselves comfortable on their picnic rug, with blankets and pillows (yes, blankets in summer). Then, just as the film hit its stride, it began to properly chuck it down (Note: that's an English expression for 'it began to rain quite heavily'). T and friends quickly covered themselves with umbrellas and garbage bags, ensuring that they covered every inch of their clothes and bodies. They then relaxed, and simply enjoyed the atmosphere, however cold and soggy it became!
The film was truly funny, but what was best, was seeing hundreds of people braving the rain in order to watch it in such beautiful surroundings.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Racing for Life

With a sigh of relief, Traveller completed her first London run and is, as a result, forever addicted to her new hobbie!

The Race for Life could have been a scary event, full of competition and serious faces, however Traveller was pleasantly surprised. The atmosphere at Regent's Park was one of fun and femininity, with over 5000 women involved. The purpose of the race is to raise awareness and money for cancer research - so while the race was fun, it was also one of mixed emotions. As Traveller ran her 5k, she had to keep fighting back tears as she saw so many people's shirts with signs dedicated to loved ones who had been lost to cancer, or even runners who were cancer survivors. It truly is a disease that affects everyone in some way or another.

But it wasn't all doom and gloom - after running around 4k of the race, there were male volunteers standing on the edge clapping as you went by and you even got a medal upon completion of the race. T was most impressed by her sister-in-law who, very averse to exercise and in particular running, managed to complete the race 15 mins earlier then previously estimated! Super effort!
The best part of the whole day, however, was being able to enjoy a pub lunch with the family in celebration of the money raised and calories burnt!

Ps. Thanks to all those who donated - 'twas very much appreciated.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

La Dolce Vita

Two and a half weeks of Italian food, cities and sights has led Traveller (who has a reputation for being verbose) to write 1 blog with a list of the most memorable moments.... Traveller and hubbie travelled from Florence - Tuscany - Rome - Naples - Sorrento - Capri - Positano - Amalfi - Ravello.

Best Travel Moment (ever) - Ballet in Piazza della Signora

Whilst T and her fam walked home from a satisfying pizza dinner they stumbled upon a live, open theatre ballet performance. It was a goose-bump rendering moment, as the Piazza is surrounded by statues (it is where a copy of The David stands) and fountains (the fontana del Nettuno is here). These surroundings coupled with a superb ballet performance, ensured T was sold on Florence forever.

Most Mouth-Watering Meal - Otello Alla Concordia

While there were countless delicious food experiences, this one took the cake, so to speak. This restaurant resides near the Spanish Steps, and all it took was a simple bowl of spaghetti with tomatoes and basil to make T weak at the knees. (Oh, and the deep-fried zucchini flowers at the beginning of the meal didn't hurt either - yum!)

Most Breathtaking View - The Tuscan Hills

T and hubbie were lucky enough to stay in a gorgeous farmhouse in Corsignana, Tuscany. The farmhouse had a winery, swimming pool and an amazing view of the Tuscan Hills (from T's window).

Nearly-broke-up-a-Marriage Moment - The drive from Florence to Rome

As hubbie lost his wallet a few months ago (with driver's license inside) T was the lucky one that drove the hire car from Florence to Rome. Whilst driving on the other side of the road may not seem that difficult - when you put crazy Italian drivers into the equation you end up with two bickering spouses and one very nervous driver with very clammy hands. Oh well, T and hub survived - no scratches or bruises on them...or the car.

Cringe-Worthy Moment - Rome B & B

Upon arriving at the first B & B of their Italian holiday - T and hubbie were a little taken aback. It was not your usual B & B, but rather a flat near the Vatican with a middle aged couple and their very old mother. T and hubs's bathroom was detached from their room and was located next to the grandmother's room. The Italian nonna slept with her door open and was known to fart very loudly at night! Not the ingredients for a romantic Roman holiday!

Biggest-sigh-of-Relief Moment - Sorrento B & B

Upon staying in our 'romantic' Rome B & B for four nights, T started to get nervous that all of the accomodation that she had booked was going to be similar. The sigh of relief came when their Sorrento B & B was absolutely perfect! It came equipped with a driver to and from town, a beautiful view of all Sorrento and....their own, private bathroom! Traveller has never been so happy to see a shower in all her life.

Most Unnerving City - Naples

T and hubs are unsure of why exactly Naples was unnerving. It could be that there was a rubbish strike on and rubbish was piled high on the streets wherever they went. It could be that there was also a transport strike on while they were there - so there were no metros, no buses and no trains. Or it could just be that it is the main base for the Italian Mafia. Whatever it was, we could not get out of there fast enough! Good pizza, though.

Favourite Sightseeing Spot - Vatican Museums or Pompeii

T and hubs loved being inside the Sistene Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica - moments of such a magnitude that T can't really express what it was like. The other awesome spot to see was Pompeii - an entire village that was buried under volcanic rock - amazing!

Best Run - Florence

For the first four nights, T and hubs were accompanied by T's brother, sister-in-law and parents. T's brother is an avid runner, and had mapped out a fabulous route which included running over the ponte vecchio. Following this, unfortunately, all of T's runs were quite a dismal effort. Her run in Tuscany lasted 15 mins - 'twas too hilly! And unfortunately, her run in Sorrento was cut short due to an unfortunate incident with a couple of goats - which had her running much faster than usual!

Favourite Italian Hot-spot - Positano

This is a tough call - Traveller loved most of the places that they visited. However, Positano is one of the most beautiful seaside villages that T had ever been. For those of you unfamiliar with Positano, it is a village built entirely on the vertical and the only way you get anywhere is by the millions of steps that connect the roads, restaurants and houses. The food was great, the beach was perfect and it was just beautiful.

All in all, T and hubs first proper European trip was a success! They have many stories to tell, and two great tans as evidence.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

The Fascination with Running

Wherever you look in London, there are people running. They are in the parks, on the paths, on the streets and when they aren't running, they are planning when their next big run is. Ahh.. Londoners - you have to admire their determination to run in a smog and pollution ridden city after a long day of work and tube-travelling.

Traveller has to admit that she has not just been observing this phenomenon - she has become apart of it.

Besides the fact that it hurts, is tiring and takes time - there are so many positives to this form of exercise in the city. Honestly!

1. It's free (unless you are on a treadmill).
2. It allows you to enjoy the gorgeous parks that London has to offer.
3. It's a very good way of keeping off those winter pounds (for in London, it always seems to be winter), and
4. There is always motivation.

You can't go anywhere in London without hearing about the next big race. There are hundreds of races every year, from 5k's, to 10k's to half-marathons and the ultimate fitness test, the marathon. Even the local celebrities are runners, T has seen numerous pictures of the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Ronan Keating and Brit T.V stars pounding the pavement at various London marathons.

So, in saying that, T now has two races on the cards. First up, is a 5k run in the Race for Life on the 20th July and second is the Nike Human Race - a 10K run which happens in 25 cities all over the world on the 31st August. In London it happens at dusk, at Wembley Stadium, followed by a concert by the likes of Moby. Fun!

Well, fun... until you look at the facts.

- Traveller has never run over 5k.
- The race is in just over two months.
- In that time, T will be travelling and eating copious amounts of Italian food.
- There will be thousands of really fast runners there and,
- T has a hard time tackling a challenge when she is nervous. A lot of talking herself out of it tends to happen - which only takes more time away from the actual training!

In aid of fighting her anxiety, T has started to map out a plan in order to get herself fit for the race, and already that looks like a LOT of running. 136 k's worth to be exact! Eek! During this planning stage, T discovered that she actually likes the idea of running a little more then the hard work it takes to run 10k at a moderately fast pace.

On a more positive note - the London running hype has even reached her anti-exercise hubbie, who is 'considering' doing the Nike Human Race. T can't believe it! He hasn't committed yet, but he has been on three runs this week and has been running further each time. T is very proud!

On an even more positive note - if there is any way to combat the Heathrow Injection - this may be it. T and hubs are off to Italy for two and a half weeks tomorrow, and with all the pizza, pasta, wine and gelati on offer, they are going to need all the help they can get.


Thursday, 19 June 2008

Glorious Bath

When one thinks of the British city of Bath, images of Austen, the Roman Baths, and Georgian architecture spring into mind. As an avid Austen fan, this is one of the key cities in Britain that Traveller couldn't wait to visit! She couldn't wait to walk the very steps that Austen herself had walked. She also couldn't wait to see the sights where Austen's characters had strolled, had tea and where they had danced. When T imagined herself ambling down the streets of Bath witnessing these historical places, what she didn't picture was a garish red bus packed with loads of tourists with cameras around their necks and bright red earphones in their ears.

This taken into account, after Traveller and her hubbie arrived in Bath, Traveller was put off by Hubbie's suggestion that they should hop on a red bus so that they could get a better picture of the city and its surrounds. The red bus? With the ear phones? And the tour guide? This was not how Traveller pictured her first tour of Bath. However, as all attempts of renting bikes were thwarted, Traveller and hubbie jumped on the bus and were pleasantly surprised with a historical journey of Bath and its surrounds. With all of its red glare - the bus actually provided a wealth of information about Bath, and as Saturday was a sunny day, we were able to view all of the beautiful architecture, the lovely countryside and the main 'hot spots' in a 50 minute round trip!
One of T's most favourite stops was the Jane Austen Centre where you toured a small musuem of Austen's life and some of the films that have been made of her novels. You could even have 'Tea with Mr. Darcy' although T never quite found out what that was, as she is still fighting (perhaps a losing battle) the 'Heathrow Injection'. Hubbie, of course, made himself scarce when T went into the Austen museum.

Following the bus journey, T and hubbie had a fabulous night planned which included dinner at a a lovely restaurant, a play at the Royal Theatre and culminated in watching the ever-hilarious Eurovision contest. T could not think of a better way to spend her Saturday evening. They had a pre-theatre meal at a nearby Italian restaurant which was lovely but it was the actual theatre performance which was the best part. T had booked her and her hubbie in to see 'Blackbird' - a play written by David Harrower. The play was dark in subject - but so powerful and engaging. It was 1 hour and 30 mins long with no intermission, and T and hub were on the edge of their seats. The play had only two key characters, and the actors were on stage for almost the whole time. It was an excellent play and was featured in an excellent location - as the Theatre Royal is one of the oldest and most beautiful theatres in Britain.

Our next day in Bath was spent sightseeing. We started by touring around the Roman Baths - which hubbie loved! He stayed in there for hours, while T, after an hour and a half, took herself off shopping. The Baths were fascinating though, and T particularly enjoyed the Bill Bryson audio tour.

In the afternoon, we took a 'Mad Max' tour of Stonehenge and Lacock Village. Our tour guide was quite flustered and quirky and quickly shared with our little bus that he had a keen interest in crop circles and the unknown. Following this, he promptly passed around a book on the subject for all of us to have a look at! We were a bit unsure about him at first, but it turned into quite a humorous and unusual journey of the English countryside. T's favourite part was not Stonehenge (although it is quite fascinating), but was in fact, the tour of Lacock Village. Lacock is particularly famous because it was the set of the infamous BBC production of Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' where Colin Firth, as Mr. Darcy, set women's hearts fluttering worldwide in a wet T-shirt scene. T was super excited! Lacock is also famous for hosting the house where Harry Potter lived with his aunt and uncle in the first film.

Our final day in Bath was spent just as the Roman's would have - in an actual thermae spa. This is the only natural thermae spa left in Britain. The spa re-opened in 2006 and is quite the treat! You begin with steaming rooms and foot spas - there are four steam rooms infused with different oils, such as lavender, jasmine, mint and eucalytus. These were very hot, but smelled heavenly! Following this, T and hub cooled off in the open-air rooftop pool which has stunning views of the city of Bath, the Abbey and the surrounding hills. It was the most relaxing morning and a fitting end to our weekend in Bath, as within the next hour we were back on the train to London.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

A Cultural Day-Out

One of the things that Hubbie and Traveller love about London is how much there is to do here. Whatever you like to spend your time doing - T guarantees you can do it here. Last Saturday morning (after a late, last minute decision with our favourite French friends) we headed into Leicester Square to buy some cheap theatre tickets to whatever was going.

We arrived in Leicester Square agog at how many different places you could buy theatre tickets. After much discussion and question-asking, we bought tickets to see 'Mamma Mia' at the Prince of Wales Theatre. The best seats that they had were for a matinee session that very day, so we quickly decided to stay and explore the city whilst waiting for our show.
As Leicester Square is right near Trafalgar Square, we made our way over to the National Gallery as we all had never been. We promptly split up and covered the parts of the Gallery that we really wanted to see - it is much too big to do in one day. It was quickly discovered that the Gallery is one of the BEST free places to visit in London. Traveller was absolutely delighted with the amount of famous paintings there were in the gallery. There were paintings from Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, Renoir and so many more. Now, T isn't the most discerning art student, but to stand a mere half-metre away from Van Gogh was simply breathtaking. We all walked away from the Gallery extremely inspired and uplifted and we hadn't even listened to any ABBA songs yet!
'Mamma Mia' the musical was something else. It was T's second London musical experience, and she will just say that it was oh so much better then the first! The songs, the costumes and the dancing were so much fun that even the people in the very back row were dancing in the aisles. Traveller can't wait for the film!
Another of T's and hubbie's cultural experiences over the weekend was a look through the latest art exhibition on the River Thames. We were walking by the river after having a lovely dinner and came across the 'Telectroscope'. Pictured, it is a device which allows people in London to see people in New York, in real time, through a person-size lens. Whilst there, after paying our £1 entry fee, we found ourselves waving at people in New York.
Close to us were Londoners talking to friends and family on the other side of the Atlantic, whilst looking at them through the massive lens! It was quite a reminder of life in London, as in the middle of June we were standing in a coat and scarf, whilst the Americans, on the same side of the equator, were in shorts and singlets boasting of their warmth. They also (we heard this from the people on their mobiles) had no entry fee!
Ah, London - why would you want to live anywhere else?

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Celebrity Sighting #1

Traveller has touted Maida Vale as being the place to spot celebrities in suburban London, and tonight, she saw her first!

Whilst having a drink at 'The Warrington' with some friends, it was impossible not to notice the gorgeous Australian actress - Abbie Cornish. The star of many notable films (notable more for their rich content, rather then their box office success) was enjoying a drink at our local!

The night's significance suddenly increased as Traveller and friends reflected on how stunningly cool they must be, to be hanging out at a watering hole that catered to 'the stars'.

It just keeps getting better in W9.....

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Let the travelling begin.......

Those of you who have followed this blog since the beginning of the year are probably beginning to wonder when Traveller's next adventure is. Traveller as a name is becoming fairly arbitrary when all the places she has been so far come down to the two B's - Britain and Belgium.

Well, don't be alarmed, all of this is about to change! Traveller and her hubbie are feeling quite settled in the UK and are now ready to see even more of the world. For the last couple of months, T has been busy planning the next three trips: Bath, Italy and Paris. We are going to Bath this weekend (it is a long weekend in the UK), Italy for two and a half weeks in June/July and then Paris for a long weekend in August.

With these three trips to plan, Traveller has begun to realise that planning an itinerary for a trip can be a full-time job. And, just between you and her, she has been very grateful for the access to the internet she has during work hours! Planning a two and a half week trip includes hours of researching, and then the booking of flights, of BnB's, of the Eurostar, of theatre tickets, of popular museums & galleries, of restaurants and of rent-a-cars only takes more time! Though, T wouldn't dare complain about such a task.

The itinerary planning and trip researching only became more complex when yesterday a budget airline announced that they were selling cheap flights until midnight. Hubbie was very excited and ready to dedicate the entire evening to flight searching and booking. Traveller, who was a little weary of flight searching, happily looked over hubbie's shoulder as he tapped away on his laptop.

It is necessary to say that over the last few months, T & H have developed a love/hate relationship with RyanAir (the budget airline). The flights always appear to be very cheap - however, the price does not usually include taxes, baggage or even checking in! As this was the case, Traveller spent much of the evening consoling Hubbie as he became increasingly frustrated with the site. However, with persistence and determination generally comes a reward and by midnight, Hubbie had booked FOUR trips! And that's only in September and October! We now have Bath in May, Italy in June/July, Paris in August, Oslo in September, Stockholm in September, Berlin in October and finally, a little closer, Dublin in October as well! We are going to be well-travelled (and perhaps a little weary) come this October!

If you are now not concerned for our travelling, but more for our empty pockets - do not fear - RyanAir put forward some amazing deals. We paid for all four trips what a friend paid for two Eurostar tickets to Paris! Let's hear it ---- bargain!

So, as the travelling begins, Traveller is learning one of life's great lessons - the art of organisation! It had to happen sometime, and T is so happy that she is able to enjoy Europe as a result of her new found skill! .......let's give it up for RyanAir...!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

A Marvellous May Weekend

As the long weekend loomed around the corner, all Londoner's braced themselves for a gloomy three days. It had rained all week, had been unseasonably cold and apparently more of the same was promised for the weekend. In particular, it was going to pour on May Day - which is Traveller's birthday.

However, as weary city dwellers opened their blinds on Saturday morning, you could practically hear a resounding rejoice throughout the city. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and every man and his dog were out running along the glimmering pavement. Hooray - spring has arrived at last! Traveller, of course, took this moment to go for a run and bask in the Vitamin D filled rays of sunlight. Bliss!
This morning run kicked off a packed weekend for Traveller and her hubbie. They had made various engagements which began with an outing to 'Carwash' (a 70's/80's nightclub where fancy dress is a must) and culminated in a joint birthday picnic with Traveller's flattie who was born on the same day - albeit a year apart.
The 'Carwash' experience was one of Traveller's highlights of London so far - it wasn't so much the nightclub but more the shopping for what to wear! Vintage stores in London are so much more aptly fitted out for such occasions! There were endless amounts of flares, wigs, frocks and vests - all completely retro and still at op-shop prices. Pictured is one of Traveller's favourite items - a 60's style swimming cap - very groovy!
Seriously, Traveller and hubby could have spent hours in this store - poring over endless amounts of forgotten treasures. However, they had to get home and get themselves ready for the big event. They were going to the club to help their flatmate celebrate her birthday with her friends.

Needless to say, we received many comments on the tube, whilst travelling to our destination.

Traveller's most memborable long weekend moment was the picnic at Regent's Park on May Day. We had held out hope all week that a miracle would occur and the rain would stop and had, as a result, come up with no plan B. This, however, proved to be a good thing as Monday was London's warmest day for 2008 and there was not a cloud in the sky! It was Traveller's first London birthday and it couldn't have been celebrated in a more delightful way - friends, food, football and fabulous sunny weather!

Ah Traveller is so grateful for the friends and family here, and the friends and family in OZ who have helped her celebrate her birthday - it was a super day!

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

A Love-Hate Relationship

The positives and negatives for the London tube are many - one day you can love it, the very next hour can you find yourself with a growing aversion for it. At the very least, it has been a place of new experiences for Traveller.

The positives are clear - it's fast, it's relatively easy to follow, there are free newspapers to read (many different varieties) and the tubes come every 1-5 mins no matter what hour or where you are going. The negatives become clear over time - it's hot, it's cramped, Londoner's aren't very nice on transport, there are frequent delays and works are usually being done on the main tube lines over the weekend.

The one element of tube travelling that became clear to Traveller in her first week was how sour Londoners can be on the tube - there are no smiles, no manners, and it's mostly each man for himself. People race for seats, they barely look at each other and they can sometimes shove each other to get on and off. T found herself behaving like a Londoner after a few weeks - always looking down, having her face in a book or a newspaper and she even started to develop the killer instinct in seat hunting - never shoving, but definitely racing people to seats.

This development in Traveller's tube persona became even more clear to her when she arrived home one day to Hubbie, who had a story to tell. It had been a normal morning on the tube for Traveller - a quick walk to Maida Vale station, a jump onto the Bakerloo line and then a swap at Oxford Circus to go straight through to Bank station. Unbeknowest to her, Hubbie had been right behind her, and had been standing right next to her on the Bakerloo line. He revealed that he had even looked right over her shoulder to watch her Ipod for 10 minutes! Traveller didn't even notice!

That same week, Traveller had a rare experience on the tube - she was sitting on a four seater, with two ladies opposite her and a man beside her. The man was a little bigger than T and was taking up a little more than his share of the seat. Then, after a long day, the man started to nod off. As his eyes closed he inched closer and closer to Traveller - he became so close in fact, that his head started to rest on her shoulder. The two ladies opposite to T started to make eye contact with her, and one even let out a giggle. As the man got more and more comfortable on T's side of the seat, both ladies let out peals of laughter. Luckily, upon hearing the laughter, the man quickly sat up straight and wiped the drool from his mouth. As gross as this was, Traveller couldn't help but smile - she had actually shared a 'moment' with two ladies on the tube.......quite an achievement!

The best thing, however, about the tube has been the the occasions where Traveller and her hubbie have been able to travel together. It has, of late, become a frequent occurence for them to catch the tube home together from work. Traveller loves this - being able to pass the time and the re-tellings of the day on the tube is - as Londoner's would put it - fab!

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Did Traveller say it was getting warm?

Merely hours after writing her previous blog about the last snow of winter - Traveller and her hubbie awoke to a blanket of snow over sweet 'ol Maida Vale. Not only did ice cover the houses, the trees and the cars, but the snow was still falling really heavily outside. Traveller loves snow! It's so beautiful!

Of course, we did what all of the Aussie's in London did that morning, we ran out and played in it! (There were plenty of snowball fights happening around the streets). Sadly, there wasn't enough for a snowman where we were, but there was plenty to look at and take goofy pictures of. Hubbie also decided to video call his family and show them. Traveller was shocked that Hub took his computer outside in the falling snow! You think you know a person.........

Following the video call, T and her hub got yummy croissants for breakfast from the nearby deli and enjoyed them, looking out their window at the gorgeous surroundings. Ah, bliss.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Let it Snow....

During Easter weekend when Traveller and hubbie went to Belgium, it was forecast to snow in London and its surrounds. For this reason, Traveller was a little hesitant to leave London simply because she had never actually seen snow fall from the sky before.

However, all was forgiven when the morning after flying back from Brussels, they awoke to find pretty snowflakes falling from the sky. Alas, it was too warm for the snow to actually stick, but boy did it look beautiful on its way down. Traveller and hubbie were very excited, and promptly jumped out of bed and danced around in it. We tried to take pictures of it..but of course you can't really see it, unless it was against something black like Traveller's hair or coat. Ah well - as the weather is starting to slowly warm up here, we won't see anymore of this for a while, but we will look forward to the time when we can frolick in the pretty white stuff again.

- You really can't see it, can you? You're just going to have to trust Traveller - it was beautiful!

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Je ne comprends pas?!

This became a frequently used expression over the weekend as Traveller and her husband embarked on their first European adventure - to Brussels, Belgium! For those of you surprised by this adventure - yes, it was unplanned. It was a last minute, impetuous decision made at midnight last Thursday evening when hubbie discovered some cheap deals on the net. Traveller, of course, got zero sleep on Thursday night as she was positively busting with excitement! Hooray - our first trip!

That Friday we made all our plans, and then took the Heathrow Connect train from Paddington to Heathrow. We arrived in Belgium and quickly realised that we no longer understood anything or anyone! (Although, much to hubbie's annoyance, Traveller did spend the whole trip from London to Belgium learning as many French phrases as she could while practicing them aloud in her most obnoxious French accent - well, hey 'Je ne comprends pas' (I don't understand) came in very handy!

We somehow found our way into Brussels via a train and then dropped our stuff at our very cheap, swanky hotel (we love!). It was around 11:30 at night, and Traveller was desperate for some nosh - so we traipsed through the town looking for some famous Belgian fries and some beer. It was freezing, and wet as it had been snowing all day - so we found the closest open restaurant and ate, before turning in for the night.

Much to our delight - the sun came out on Saturday and we were blessed with a very lovely day. We started the day off right with chocolate waffles from a nearby vendor - and boy, were they delicious! This was not a good weekend for Traveller's waistline. We then took a train to Waterloo - the famous battlesite where the Duke of Wellington defeated Napolean in the 1800's. We had found out the previous day that they were doing re-enactments all weekend, so Hubby was super excited for a day of remembering and watching fighting. As we found the site it was clear where our thoughts differed - Hubby was dreaming of war and guns and becoming increasingly more boisterous, while Traveller was busy humming a certain Abba song and dancing her heart out (in her thoughts, of course). However, much to both our enjoyment, the battleground was breathtaking - the green expanse and the famous image of the lion on the hill were impressive. The most fun part was yet to come, however, with the re-enactments featuring men dressed in traditional costume completing cavalry training, which included chopping cabbages with swords! Very amusing!

We then had lunch at a nearby traditional pub - which served Belgian food and this was where we had our first beer. Belgium is famous for its beer (over 800 varieties) - and Hubby was most excited as he found one that he actually liked. Forgive him for his girly tastes readers because, yes, it was a pink, fruity beer!

From here, we went back to Brussels, had our first Belgian fries with mayonnaise and toured the city. It truly is a beautiful city - and sites such as Grand Place, Brussels Park and the Royal Palace did not disappoint. Our most favourite part was the architecture of the city and its unique nature where half of its citizens speak Dutch and the other half speak French, so everything is written in both languages. This truly makes for interesting navigating!

So that is the tale of the first couple of stamps in our passports - all in all, Brussels was a surprising and merry adventure and Traveller really can't wait for the next one!

Thursday, 13 March 2008

The Warrington

As Traveller has been blogging incessantly about Ramsay's new pub - it is only right that she should blog about the actual experience, and do not fear readers, it definitely surpassed expectations. The most satisfying part about the night was the fact that there were four others to share it with - which meant we were able to try four times the amount of dishes. While Traveller calls herself 'Gourmet' - she must admit that she hasn't tried all the weird and wonderful food that the world has to offer. However, on this lovely night, she was able to taste many new things and they were all heavenly.

As it was a new experience for all of us (the restaurant only opened around five weeks ago) we all decided to eat as much food as possible - which meant starters, sides, mains and dessert! :) (Luckily, as the restaurant is only new, and a pub - it doesn't have typical Ramsay prices - only around £12 for mains.)

For starters we shared escargot, smoked eel, potted duck and a grilled goat's cheese salad. On all accounts, the dishes were absolutely stunning. Traveller was a little nervous about the snails - but they were her favourite part of the evening - memorable and delicious!
Our dishes for dinner were roasted baby chicken, confit duck, Choucroute garnie (sausage) and rib-eye and all plates were left very empty. Dessert saw three plates of chocolate fondant, rhubarb and apple crumble and a treacle pudding . Traveller had the chocolate of course - and it was lovely.

The best part was, of course, the company - Traveller loves being around the other half of her family that has been away for so long. Oh, and the worst part? The niggling feeling that I would have to run a few more laps of the ol' running track.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Now it's time for the good stuff...

A list of things that Traveller and hubbie have been up to over the last week or so...

1. Hubbie got a great job working in the finance industry doing computer stuff- he is very happy

2. Traveller and Hubbie moved in to their new flat - with the help of lovely brother + wife

3. T's brother ran in Asics Half-Marathon and wooped it up :)

4. Hubbie's brother, Jord came to visit (and is still visiting) - sleeping on our very cosy floor

5. Traveller, Hubbie, and Jord went to their first west end musical - Lord of the Rings! (Phenomenal set, costumes, props - little lacking in some of the acting, songs and script).

6. T finally got to experience the Gordon Ramsay Gastro-pub, along with hubbie, Jord, T's brother and his wife.

7. The London Flu has (finally) gone!

8. The plans have started for the first European holiday...

9. Saw a great chick flick - 'Definitely, Maybe'. Traveller loves her flick chick compliant hubbie ;)

10. Traveller (without hubbie) did some serious shopping on Oxford St. with a flatmate and has decided she really loves London shopping - yay Topshop, Zara etc!

11. Hubbie found out that one of our flatmates loves 'Settlers of Catan' (our fav boardgame) and so we played it with a few of our flatties over a Sunday lunch.

12. Went to our first London church (we know - it's been way too long!) - Hillsong London was awesome! Great music, excellent speaker and great location - The Dominion Theatre.

13. Went to the Australian Film Festival at the Barbican and saw a great movie (this is not the group consensus - as it was one of those movies that didn't really end). It was called 'Monkey Puzzle' and was set in the Blue Mountains.

14. Traveller went for her first proper run (with new headphones) and ran 4k's around the track - not bad for a Sunday! It's only the beginning....

15. And now for Hubbie's most exciting event - H went to watch a mixed martial arts/UFC tournament called 'Cage Rage' :). He was very excited about this event, and in his excitement got chatting to another attendee whom he sat next to on the tube. The man told Nathan that he might have a better ticket for him, so they swapped numbers. Long story short, Nathan ended up going from a 25 pound ticket, to a 200 pound ticket, sitting amongst London's C-grade celebrities! He was most chuffed!

Well, that's all the news for now. Traveller and hubbie send much love... xxxx

Traveller's brother is in the orange shirt - this is right near the finish line. He ran his first half marathon in 1 hour and 37 minutes - not bad!

T's brother after finishing - they wrap the gold foil around the runners after the race to keep them warm..

The Heathrow Injection

Moving to a land which is predominantly cold seems to be synonymous with putting on about 10-15 kgs of weight. In the UK this is fondly known as the Heathrow Injection - meaning once you grab your luggage off that conveyor belt you are destined to gain an extra layer of fat. With so many croissants, pizzas, curries, and mash - one is bound to put on weight. And on a side note -whoever said that British food is bland, has obviously not been here lately - it is fresh, delicious and oh so tasty, which of course adds to the lure of the Heathrow Injection.

Traveller has been trying to avoid the 'injection' during her first four weeks in London - well, trying is a strong word - mentally trying, but physically still smelling, tasting and ultimately, digesting loads of 'not so healthy' London food.

'It just tastes so good. and all of this walking that I am doing should surely count for something', Traveller convinces herself. 'Oh, and the cold, surely my body is working overtime to warm itself up and in the meantime I am losing loads of calories.

This is not good. For those of you familiar with T's experience in America - you are probably envisioning terrible pictures of double chins and chubby bellies. T assures you, this is not going to happen. It's not. Really.

The good news is that in lovely Maida Vale there is a beautiful park called Paddington Recreational Park - and it is full of really fit people running (there is a track), playing tennis, soccer, hockey, bowls or simply meandering around. There is also a gym in the middle, with an attached cafe. This gorgeous park is where Traveller is going to earn those croissants! The new flatmates and T have already planned their first running session - so, there will be no double chin, no muffin top and no chubby cheeks.

(NB: Traveller is also feeling really motivated after watching fit Londonite brother run a half-marathon in an excellent time and condition).

So, there will be no injection. Really.


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