Well, I think we have established that I am no writer, not even a casual blogger. How can you be if you never write anything??
It’s been a month since I promised an in depth recap of my grand voyage across Europe via bus and even now, I’m not going to do that. I’m just going to post a couple of photos from each place and a little blurb.
These lovely people will probably be my facebook friends for life until another social network takes over. No but really, we were all bound by the excitement and enthusiasm of seeing Europe and having a good time while doing so and they were all genuine, all-around-awesome people to spend 14 days with. Even if you’re not so much of a social/vocal person I can guarantee you will have a good time on Contiki and make a few friends along the way. Shoutout to Kat and Bart too, tour manager extraordinare and the real Transporter.
PARIS I LOVE YOU AND I MISS YOU.
The highlights? Ordering macaroons in French and then eating them. Duck à l’orange. Champagne and escargot. Yes food. Mostly. My god it was good. I climbed all 680 stairs up and then back down of the Eiffel Tower. Saw a cabaret show. Indulged my morbid geekdom with the catacombs. Had a religious experience in Saint-Chapelle (praise gothic architecture). Discovered my favourite art form - sculpture- in the Louvre. Missed out on the Champs-Elysses and the Arc de Triumphe. Though not to worry because I will be going back some day.
Moving to the Beaujolais region and the south of France.
Oh look, the chateau where we stayed, it’s super old and has a “cave” where we all got drunk. Highlight? The best red wine I ever had here not that I know my wine in fact I never drank it until this year. I’ll let you know when I remember the name of the wine…
Oh Nice, how nice you are. Had the option to spend a day in Nice or Cannes. We chose Nice because it’s meant to be cheaper and my bank account is as empty as the numerous bottles of wine consumed on this trip. The Côte d’Azur is where it’s at ladies and gentlemen. That is if you like pebble beaches but you can easily put up with the pebbles with such a laid back atmosphere and stunning views. I plan to become rich enough to retire in Cannes though. That’s on my bucket list. Realistic, non?
Hey big spender - Monaco
That there is a Monte Carlo Casino where I failed to win me a playboy millionaire or a sugar daddy. To be honest, I sat in the corner and watched the fat cats gamble a few bucks while my feet recovered from all the stairs. So many stairs. In fact to summarise the whole of this trip I could simply write stairs and be done with it. I digress, the main lesson learned in Monaco is that they have super sofisticated customs here and you can have your passport scanned through the bus window, right Kat?
Yeah, we went there (That is literally the only thing to do in Pisa).
Florence, the other place I plan on retiring in. This here is the Ponte Vecchio bridge, basically, a really old bridge. Yeah, wow, but really it’s very cool. You have to go for yourself and get a guided tour to learn the history. Saw a replica of the statue of David but didn’t go to the Academia where the real one was. Ate the most gorgeous prosciutto tortellini that was super cheap and, my god, if I lived in Italy I’d just be a big fat ball of carbs rolling my way from restaurant to restaurant being fuelled by Italian coffee and gelato.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you certainly can’t see it in a day. I fucked this part of the trip UP. I really did. I was hungover, I was grumpy, the trains weren’t running because someone jumped on the tracks. Took the bus ride from hell into the city. Had barely any time to sight see before the Vatican tour. Went to the Vatican city. Wish i hadn’t. Most boring tour of my life. I did see the Sistine Chapel, and of course that was amazing. I could probably appreciate it more and overall I know I need to give Rome another chance but I was so hungover and just in the worst mood but this was my least favourite part of the trip.
Venice! This is where my opinion of Italy was restored again even if I did lose my phone here. Gondola rides and a walking tour of the streets. Very cool. We didn’t stay here long which is a shame. So, moving on.
PROST! Yeah, gummy there is me with a stein in a Bavarian Beer Hall in Munich.
Another place I wish we had stayed longer in. This was a great night. I’m really stupidly proud I drank two of those. Not so proud that I actually bought that Dirndle… I got caught up in the Oktoberfest spirit and decided to dress up. Now I have to make use of that bloody thing EVERY CHANCE I GET. Though I’d be lying if I didn’t say I loved it.
Serious moment now… The next day it was off to Dachau concentration camp memorial. I didn’t take any photos, I felt it was disrespectful to I guess. It was a very emotional experience for me, even without any personal history I’m aware of.
There’s a church on the site which has a book you can sign and I picked up the pen and after a moment I threw it down again. I could not express my heartache for the atrocities or the sadness or my hope and thoughts for future and still can’t.
Insert gauche and tackless transition back to the light-hearted play-by-play of the trip. Let’s pretend that wasn’t awkward.
Rhine Valley, it was real and it was great and it was really great, but this was another fleeting blip on the trip. We stayed a night. Drank some Eiswein. Listened to an awesome German accent, but that’s about it. I don’t even have a photo, and I don’t think anyone else does either? So here’s a google image:
Last but not least of all, in fact probably the most anticipated destination of all the trip; Amsterdam.
Again, I’ve borrowed a photo because I’m lacking but this isn’t from google this is from Maria’s facebook, a fellow contiki traveller. The canals of Amsterdam were very beautiful and I had a challenging time navigating them with Jen and Belinda but it was fun nonetheless. The hash brownies were disappointing for me. I felt nothing. No out of body experience, catatonic state, no epiphanies of any kind or even a “whoa man” was had. What was most disappointing was the lack of effect when I needed it while on a group excursion to the live sex show we all saw in the red light district. It would be nice if those memories were a bit fuzzier, not unlike the overweight man in the leather who had what I can only describe as aggressive sex with his wife on stage. I would say it was “enthusiastic” but the look of boredom or maybe just sheer lack of expression prevents me from doing so.
Sadly the disappointment continues when a trip to the Vincent Van Gough museum ended in my almost-tears. It was closed for renovations. I saw 3 couples have sex on a stage but I couldn’t see a painting of some sunflowers?
However I did go to the Anne Frank House as you know from a previous blog as I waited in line. Another harrowing but essential experience.
And this is where I crudely end this post which is less like a summary than I had hoped. I also refuse to promise any further posts because of obvious reasons.
Lying in bed here in London. Coughing and sniffing and choking and maybe dying. I haven’t had a flu/cold like this in at least 5-6 years. Poor Belinda is worse though and I’m afraid I’m heading that way too. Being sick certainly makes travelling harder, especially this time of year. And I’m a bit of a petulant child when it comes to being sick. I like a lot of sympathy and being looked after. None of that while travelling by yourself. It looks as if we will be seeing less of London than we had hoped while we try not to suffocate on own mucus. On that vivid imagery I’m going to try to sleep again. Goodnight!!
London to Paris.
Oh dear lord. Do you want a hectic, fast paced and lively tour around Europe? Well then the European Highlights tour offered by Contiki is the tour for you. One day and I am already overwhelmed.
I met up with Belinda yesterday after a pretty easy journey from Stockholm to skavsta to gatwick to London. Bit of a trek but that’s what happens on a budget. No dramas anyway. Got to the hotel. Chilled for a couple of hours and then went off to the info evening. And thank god we did. Turns out it’s actually really important. You have to sign in, show your passport, give your insurance details and all that but you wouldn’t know. Or atleast we didnt. Absolutely no one had said anything regarding that? Maybe we’re just thick.
After that we all had to put on stickers to show which group we were in and then go to the pub for a drink and meet everyone. We had one drink and went to bed. We figured we’d meet everyone on the bus and boy, we were right.
We did a little speed dating; so those next to the window ( which was me thank god) sat there while the outside rotated. There’s 49 people on our tour. That’s a fair few people. Lots of Aussies. No uk people. A bunch of Canadians, Americans, one Spanish guy, a couple of South Africans and a group of Japanese people. Everyone is really lovely. And also turns out there are 2 other people from where Belinda and I live. What a small world. One girl even works in the same westfields as Belinda.
Oh and Carol, I met the Melbournian version of you. A com law student. She’s in her 4 th year though?? and she said she NEEDED this break. Good luck Carol.
So everyones lovely and our Driver and Tour guide are awesome. Bart and Kat. Great people.
So far we have seen the cliffs of Dover. Driven into Paris and driven down the Champs d’Elysses. Went up the Eiffel tour. Managed to get a pretty cheap cab ride back for 5 of us. Oh we have also sampled a glass of Champagne and 1 escargot. Which was actually alright. I will not touch frogs legs though.
So tomorrow we go off exploring on our own. We are thinking of going to Le Louvre just to see the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. then to the catacombs. St Chappel. And the Musee D’Orsay if we have time. We have to do all this before 4 pm when we have to meet back at the hotel so that we can all go out for a traditional French dinner. Things like onion soup, escargot, duck a l’orange, beef bournignon and ratatouille. After that we are seeing a cabaret show at the nouvelle eve. Near the moulin rouge. But apparently this is better? Then after that we are going ‘out out’. True to Contiki form.
So who knows when I will update this next. Depends all on free wifi and spare time. Don’t worry. I have been taking lots of photos and videos. And we are having a blast. BYE!
Also I apologize for any bad spelling especially of the french. It’s late. I’m exhausted. I walked up about 700 stairs up the Eiffel tower a lnd then down again.
But oh my lord. It was the bloody Eiffel tower. I am in France. Life cannot get any better.
So here I am in Amsterdam with 6% battery on my iPod touch, writing this using the wifi from Anne Franks house. I’ve been in the line for about 30 minutes now but if you’re going to see anything in Amsterdam then it has to be Anne’s house right? During the day at least.
Tonight is the last night of the tour officially tomorrow everyone goes their own way. It’s been a fun trip, met a lot of interesting people. Caught the ‘Contiki cough’ which feels more like the plague. Every time we get on the bus someone coughs every 5 seconds.
Overall from this trip I think I enjoyed Nice, Venice and Munich the most.
Least of all is the moments I check my bank account. Did I really need to buy a Derndle for the beer halls? No. But I’m glad I did. Did I really pay 32 euros to go to a live sex show with the rest of the Contiki group here in Amsterdam? Yes I did. Am I glad I did? Er…
It’s all part of experiencing the world I suppose. One experience I skipped out on though… The bike ride. Mum, dad, I still can’t ride a bike. But I did just do a paddle boat tour of the canals which was tiring but definitely worth it.
So that’s it for now. Almost at the front of the line. After this it’s off to the van gogh museum, the house of bols (a cocktail museum) and maybe the sex museum after half a space cake. Mum, dad, you didn’t read that. Then tonight it’s a cruise and dinner with the group and a pub crawl and that officially ends Contiki.
I will go into more details about the tour another time.
Until then x
Is definitely the packing. I think we can all agree there. The second worse thing about travelling, is the unpacking. Then tied in for second place for the worst thing about travelling is doing the laundry during/after travelling.
Tomorrow I fly off to London to meet Belinda for our contiki tour! It’s very exciting.
We’ll be spending 3 weeks abroad. 2 weeks travelling from England, to France, Italy, Austria, Germany and Holland and then a final week of just chilling out in London and making the most of it.
I will take loads of pictures… I know I haven’t been very good on that front but I will make sure my camera is always on the ready. Maybe some video footage too? Who knows. Probably - though whether I will want to show it or not is a different story.
But back to where I began this post, packing. One thing about packing is to DOUBLE CHECK the LUGGAGE LIMITS.
Contiki’s luggage limits are 20kg, not a problem however…
Tomorrow I’ll be travelling with Ryan Air. Europe’s own version of Jetstar. It’s what I imagine it would be like to be inside a commercial. Your vision is assaulted by the airlines signature colours navy blue and high-vision-raincoat yellow, which is what covers most of the interior. Then you have the flight attendants constantly trying to sell you things. Like every 15 minutes. Hot food, want hot food? We have snacks? Drinks? Magazines? Newspapers? Fake cigarettes anyone? There is no respite from this endless peddling of goods and services. Also, there is no assigned seating and as expected the seats are small and uncomfortable. But really… thats what you have to expect with really cheap flights. And thank god its only a 2 hour flight from Stockholm to London.
But what I hadn’t realised is that RyanAir have a baggage limit of 15kg.
15. I had packed for 20. SO my loathing for packing has only been intensified as i have packed and repacked today countless times. Eventually I had to give up my second scarf and 2 cardigans, I lost one dress and 2 shirts. I have shoes stuffed in my carry on as well as a second outfit, and all the other necessities one normally packs in their carry on.
My bag now comes in at 15.5 kg. and I swear to god I need it all. I really do. So I’ll be praying to all the gods, and making deals with the devils to make sure that I haven’t made a mistake, that the scales are correct and/or RyanAir don’t penalise me for that .5. Which they may. Because airlines are bastards. Especially the cheap ones.
At least I can always repack when I get to London though…
See you in October!
UPDATE: Daniel just read this and told me that with RyanAir there are 15kg tickets and 20kg tickets. Fuck. Fuckity. Fuck.
DOUBLE CHECK EVERYTHING that is my new number one rule DOUBLE. CHECK. EVERYTHING.
Home from Malmö today. A road trip which is equal to Sydney to Coffs Harbour in length.
Malmö is Sweden’s third largest city, an industrial city and next years host of the Eurovision Song Contest. Oh what a shame I won’t be here for that next year… Malmö was a peaceful little city although I can’t tell you much about it because I spent most of my time in Copenhagen, Denmark. Just an hour’s train ride away from Malmö.
I ate a danish in Denmark, followed by a tour on the canals where we were mooned by some locals (apparently I looked away before one guy got his balls out, the Danes are charming), was awed by Danish law where you can take a six pack of beer any where in the street and have a drink and ate a waffle on the way home. Unfortunately I was unable to capture any of this because the night before I got pretty pissed and well… long story short my camera and phone were out of battery and had to be left at home.
Vlog probably to come tomorrow.
Well I’m back from London. What a city. Unfortunately I didn’t film much, so I won’t be posting a video any time soon. Which I regret because the weather was actually pretty awesome for London, I got lots of sun, but I know that when I go back in late September it’s probably going to be shit. Oh well. At least then you can have some realistic expectations of London.
I know a few of you who may read my blog and havent been to the UK have romanticised views of what it’s like. Let me set things straight:
In Sweden, breathing the air is like drinking a bottle ice-cold spring water that’s been sitting in the fridge, quenching your thirst and relieving the dull ache that dehydration gives you after you have been mowing the lawn for 3 hours in the summer heat (not that I really know what that feels like but you might). It’s revitalising. Even in the heart of Stockholm you can breath in and feel as if it’s the freshest air you will ever breathe. London in comparison is, well… When I blew my nose my snot was discoloured to grey and that has never happened before so all I can do is put it down to smog. Sorry, that’s probably too much information but its the truth.
And just try getting some sleep on the high street. Luckily, I am a very heavy sleeper and I got the room with the double glazed windows but even then, the noise. It’s such a busy city; constant sirens blazing; drunken conversations at 3am; really bad karaoke from a near by house; trucks beeping; just general traffic… London is not a place for those with sensitive hearing.
And finally, the sheer amount of people. Walking down the street, trying to drive in the traffic, the underground. Prepare to be knocked around, feel claustrophobic in open spaces, be hot, uncomfortable and frustrated. It can be a shit fight to get any where. Honestly. Although I do have to admit that the Olympics would have impacted that… but even without I doubt there would be much of a difference.
Having said that though, I absolutely adored London. I can’t wait to go back and visit again.
Whilst it may be a dirty old town, it’s beauty can be seen in the castles, the parks, the streets, the pubs. Absolutely everywhere. It’s the history and the people. Old and new. That outweighs any possible grievances you can come up with against the city. The bustling loud city makes you feel alive. That’s very corny and cliché I know but it is true. It’s fun to just walk around aimlessly through Camden Town, getting ripped off in the little market stalls and being overwhelmed by the smell of all the different foods, while desperately looking for a toilet, because there are never any toilets in these big cities, but it’s still fun. You look around and you see other tourists sharing in your excitement and horror as you walk down narrow worn down stairs in ancient (or rebuilt) passage ways and learn all about the torture that went on in London Tower. It’s learning about the history of London, while history is being created.
And then there’s the lovely locals of London. A special thanks to the woman who showed me which bus stop to get off at, and then took the time to Google directions to the restaurant I was going to. To the man who let me borrow his phone when mine was out of credit and I was locked out of the apartment, he waited so patiently as I probably spoke to Daniel for too long.
And of course to the hospitality and kindness of Ryan and Killian, who let Daniel, Greg and me live with them for a week. Dan and Greg taking up one bedroom and me sprawled out on the couch (instead of the futon) snoring until mid morning. Thanks to them we had a great time.
So overall, please don’t expect some glorious, pristine, perfect city. Expect a dirty old one that is perfect in other ways.
But what I want to say most of all is, thank you to Anna. We would not have been there at all if it weren’t for Anna, of whom we are all so proud. (Anna, I know you’re going to read this but let’s pretend I’m not so mushy, okay?) It was without a doubt one of the greatest experiences of my life, past and future included. Although the outcome wasn’t what Anna wanted, I think the achievement alone of being an Olympian is a great one. Because of Anna, so many people were brought together. Australians, Swedes, everyone who was cheering for Anna, whether they know her personally or not, brought together to celebrate. I was lucky to meet most of Anna’s family and some friends from the boxing world in London and the love and friendship was overwhelming, some tears were shed as we gathered together over good food and Anna’s accomplishments and it was wonderful. It felt like “the true spirit of the Olympics” that people go on about. I can’t fully express what I want to say, just the fact that I’m so proud and happy for Anna, as is everyone, will have to do.
So that’s all from me at the moment. Not sure what my next post will be about in the lead up to my second trip to London and other parts of Europe. Hopefully it will have something to do with being employed.
Although, if there is anything you want me to write or vlog about, let me know and I’ll go out and do it.
Till next time x
At this point I have definitely broken from my reverie.
I feel as if I’m no longer in another country but just a different city. Things like facebook and skype disguise the distance of what you miss. I don’t know whether this is a positive or negative aspect though. Is it better to be cut off completely and immerse yourself in a totally different world or is it better to stay connected?
I have no idea.
But Sweden is beautiful and clean and friendly, and I really like it here (Don’t worry mum and dad, I’m still coming home).
I’m in the swing of things now, I know where to go and how to get there, it would be nice though if i could get a job too.
Then I could do more and see more but it’s not that easy.
I suggest if you want to work and live in a country that you should a) know the language b) scout jobs before you arrive and c) lie. Lie mercilessly on your resume to ensure you get a job.
I’ve only lied a tad on my CV but I think it’s time to up the ante.
So yesterday, I journeyed to the very interesting Historika Museet in Stockholm where they were holding a Viking’s exhibition. I definitely recommend going there, the exhibition was so interesting and they had so many amazing artifacts. All the photos will be on Facebook shortly.
That’s all I’m really going to say about the museum though, because, as per my usual, I got lost and I need to talk about that.
When travelling, I suggest trusting your first instinct.
I think I have previously mentioned how easy the rail systems are here in Stockholm. It’s an underground train system and it’s really straight forward, but you do have to make sure you take the right exit. That’s not really something you have to worry about in Sydney, unless I guess you’re at Central Station. However here it is imperative that you take the right exit or you could end up streets and streets away from where you’re meant to be.
So there I was getting off the train at Karlaplan and I found myself thinking, "Maybe I should be taking the other exit…", but I continued walking anyway. How could I not, all the people on the train who I have never met and can’t understand have seen me walk one way, it would look ridiculous to suddenly turn around and go the other way. I’m not the only one who thinks like that right?
So I inevitably exited from the wrong side and found myself on an unfamiliar street (I had gone past Karlaplan the day before on the bus and thought I knew where I was going), but I figured I should just be able to walk up and see the big roundabout I needed to see and I would work my way from there. Here’s a diagram of what happened.
Now that I look back on it I really don’t know why I didn’t just go back through the station.
I don’t know why I didn’t just ask someone.
I don’t know why or how I forgot my map.
But then after all of that, it felt pretty great getting to the museum all by myself. I felt like I had earned it, and it was more than worth it.
I just wish I hadn’t worn thongs.
I’ve got to say, life in Sweden is pretty sweet.
It’s been almost a month since I arrived and today is the first day that I have felt any kind of home sickness.
I definitely recommend living abroad with family or if you can. Living with Anna and Daniel has made the move a lot easier than it would have been otherwise. Other than obviously being able to show me around and help me out with the language barrier, it’s a wonderful feeling to feel loved and welcomed in a foreign country.
So far whilst in Sweden I’ve seen two castles, walked down cobbled streets, visited the archipelagos and conquered the subway system. I feel like I have left everyone down but… I haven’t gotten lost once since being here.
Tomorrow I job hunting now that I have my working permit. Which, I have to say, has the best photo of me I have ever had taken for any kind of license.
Acquiring a working holiday Visa is a very easy thing to here in Sweden if you have done all the paper work beforehand in Sweden. But at the Migrationsverket (immigration office), like any governmental office, in any country, there was a lot of queuing involved. I spent 4 hours waiting for my number to be called for a 5 minute process of getting my signature and my photo taken for my card.
Although, the only pitfall of this process is that I need a personel nummer (tax file number) as well. It would make a lot more sense if one was assigned to you once you filled out the initial form at the immigration office, instead though, you cannot get a personel nummer until you have received your card as proof of permit, and you cannot get a job until you have your personel nummer. Which, by the way, takes 4 to 6 weeks to process.
Hopefully though, it won’t be a big deal for me and I can start working before I get my p.n.
I still have a lot more to do and see in Sweden and I will post some photos here on this blog too a bit later.
Until then, hej då.