The 2017 Australian Federal Budget is going to break some hearts and mend some sorrows – depending on who you are.
So let’s talk students, more specifically, the university students of wonderful Oz.
In 2014 we had the initial and ACTUALLY terrifying concept of deregulation and ridiculous fee increases – this was lobbied efficiently, and did not (hopefully will not) happen. The current 2017 budget proposal – let’s take that word in, ‘proposal’ – wants to do a few things in a nutshell:
Change the loan repayment schedule – as in, instead of paying back your HECS/HECS-HELP/etc when you start earning $55,000.00 p.a., there is a chance you will need to start paying back the loan when you start earning $42,000.00. Which would make your YEARLY repayment around $500.00 in total. What’s $500.00 over a year? About $1.37 per day, not even a coffee,
Increase funding to UNDER-FUNDED degrees. We are all aware that to fund an Arts degree is nowhere near as expensive as a Bachelor of Medicine or to become a Veterinarian. Essentially, money will be taken out, but there will be injections of love into the costly degrees that aren’t covering themselves through student fees and whatnot.
Universities are not SUPPOSED to be profitable organizations. However, they seem to be making amazing turnovers, for example, the Sydney Morning Herald noted that the University of Sydney had an average profit margin of 5.3 percent in 2015 of $157 million, and the University of Melbourne recording strong surpluses of $141 million. Here’s the big question – Why do they need to make this kind of profit? They could effectively pay for the accommodation, university fees and textbooks for each student for the year with this kind of profit.
For a personal hit to the head, my precious UOW boasted a 2012 operating surplus of $38 million. Here’s the big question – Why do they need to make this kind of profit? They could effectively pay for the accommodation, university fees and textbooks for each student for the year with this kind of profit.
If Vice-Chancellors are dedicated to education, why are they being paid so much? With many news platforms pointing out that some top-dogs in our universities are hitting the $1 million mark. Where is the love? Why are university owned accommodation costs going through the roof and floor and windows? Why
Why are university owned accommodation costs going through the roof and floor and windows? Why
Why are: textbooks not free, resources not being updated, parking fees increasing exponentially? The list goes on.
University should not be free, as it is just unrealistic and we need to put the fact of ‘all these pollies cutting our funding got free uni’ behind us. There are some great initiatives in the 2017 budget, and as with all things any government does, YOU CANNOT PLEASE EVERYONE.
Maybe we shouldn’t be shouting at the government, let’s shout at the universtities who are making us pay extreme rates for parking, increasing our on-campus accommodation costs (to a point where people go into debt with the accommodation board), cutting tutorials and trying to sell us textbooks written by our own academics.
Would love to hear what you think! Or if I need to be corrected – do it with a smile.
The election in the United States has caused a stir around the world, and every Nancy, Joe and Bob are giving their insight -whether we asked or not. So, here is one more average-joe throwing an opinion into the ring.
President Elect Donald J Trump has certainly made history, being the 45th President with no prior government or military experience. If anything, he dodged it. But no one can argue the fact that Trump is a businessman. So, he is not totally inexperienced.
From an Australian point of view (we will get to how the US’s president affects us), no-one would ever beat the historical triumph of Barack Obama entering the White House. Plus, the options this year for President were not fabulous, Clinton and Trump. Who do you pick? Well the resounding consensus is that you pick the lesser of two evils, and America decided that was Trump, not my choice, but that is what happened. I am also an outsider, with no real everyday-life insight into what Americans face. But there is an obvious point we are missing.
This is how democracy works. People are protesting in the states at the current moment and predicting Americas descent into the hellish abyss, but that’s what they chose. This is what democracy is, don’t fight it.
You cannot hate democracy when the person you want doesn’t win, and visa versa. Credit, where credit is due; Trump made a fairly good speech following the realization of his presidency. I thought it showed a different side. Now that the fighting between him and Clinton is over, there may be a little more cohesion in his policies and thoughts.
How does this affect Australians? In a nut shell, we are attached the America’s side (whether our government acknowledges that or not). We owe the US far too much for them to every do anything to us – end deals, etc – however, if the US’s relations turn sour with states like China, this could impact super negatively on Australia’s relations with China. If America also leads the way to further cutting down assistance to refugees, Australia may follow suit, and our refugee policies and general treatment is horrendous.
I am not by any means a Trump fan, nor am I a Clinton fan – but we must be able to see that decision will only make things worse. America must stand together, and maybe Trump could be a good thing. Optimistic thinking wouldn’t hurt anyone right now.
I can remember sitting in the last Goodbye-Wrap-Up lecture of the semester in Paris, and thinking to myself, “Holy shit I cannot wait to get home, the sun, beach, open spaces”, followed by, “reverse culture shock is soooooo not a real thing”.
Well here I am two months since my return back to Australia and it is definitely a thing.
Now, I am a country bumkin by default but I soon found out that people no longer looked upon me as that anymore. During the Australian university semesters, I live between Sydney and Wollongong. So, here is a recap of my ‘reverse-culture-shock; in both the city and country, New South Wales, Australia.
As most people may know Gundagai, and hour away from Wagga Wagga, and if you aren’t that clued in with Australian Geography, its around one and a half hours from Canberra, the capital city of Australia. It has a total population of around 2000 (2011 National Census).
My family lives on a small hobby farm outside of town. I love the wide open spaces, my beautiful dogs, and that shit of a family. I tell you want I forgot about when I was dreaming of Home?
The snakes. The spiders. The inescapable dry heat, made worse by the drier wind. Walking back into reality, working, driving my siblings everywhere. Going to lunch with friends, and that now meant a half-hearted Australian pub meal. Oh and to add to my homecoming chaos, I had one month to find somewhere to live in Wollongong to start university again.
When I was on the plane home from London, this didn’t even cross my mind.
Jet lag, finally hit me, along with the 42 degree heat and one million percent humidity in Sydney. If you ever travel to Australia, try to avoid December to mid-February, because the heat is basically unbearable, especially if you aren’t used to it.
After a five hour drive (on top of 30 hours of flights/stop overs) I arrived to our family farm. My dogs jumping up to greet me, my grandparents. I felt like I was moving a hundred miles an hour. But that all stopped when reality hit.
I can remember having lunch at the pub with my old high school friends, and feeling this distance between us. Firstly, I went in to give them a hug and a kiss (!). How the hell did I forget that that just does NOT happen in Australia.
They talked about pregnancies, small-town scandals and parties, which just seemed a little trivial for me, especially after all the exciting, hectic, chaotic, amazing and horrific things I had encountered. I wasn’t interested, and it took a lot of energy to pretend to care. I got called ‘posh’, I don’t think that I’m posh or better than anyone else, I just grew up, became an adult and independent of anyone.
I had all these wonderful stories to tell, and they didn’t seem to care about those. One friend even said to me; “I couldn’t think of anything worse than travelling overseas”. I knew I had to be careful not to be the only one that talked or just be ‘that girl’ who only ever talked about living in Paris. But it was six months of my life, and I could have so easily stayed there.
However my family were extremely interested in every detail that I could think of (however I did leave the late night strolls of Paris from the clubs, the scary events and gross details out). My mother, grandma and animals would not stop cuddling me. I had really missed them, and to be honest, if there was a chance that they would have visited me overseas, I would have stayed.
In late January I went on a road trip to Wollongong with a friend from University, she was interested and from what I gather, not bothered at all by all of my stories. Going back to my university (Aust.) was great, everyone greeted me with massive hugs, a few had even read my weekly blogs! I think when you live with people, you become close and I so much more relaxed. Hitting the streets of Wollongong, I was exhausted, hot and sweating like a sinner in church.
Wollongong is a coastal city with under a million people. Gorgeous beaches, wide streets, barely any traffic, and the approval of everyone in the city to wear shorts, swimmers/bathers and thongs (flip flops) around the city center. I love living in Wollongong, it is truly the best of both worlds.
I started to crave the new friendships and conversations we had, the suave city life, and the ease of making new discoveries and travel. I felt bad because I had friends around me. You change, you adapt to different settings and become a new person, an unrecognizable version of yourself when you travel. And people are a little awkward around you, this is what I did not expect.
Knowing where I come from, and travelling has made me more aware of some of Australia’s problems, whilst also helping to point out how amazing this country is. I gained a lot of perspective among other things.
But, just smelling the air in the Australian country side filled me with nostalgia and this pure sense of; where ever I go and what ever I do, this will always be home.
This is my very last blog on my exchange journey/adventure/spiritual-awakening/cats/ride-of-a-lifetime/thang/exchange. So find some tissues, and celebrate the end of my Euro-UK-Ireland trip and the homecoming of a lifetime.
So after my first sleep in in what felt like forever, I decided that taking the bus from Manchester to London would be both the easiest and cheapest form of transport. And it definitely was. I went to the train station at 11am and they went to charge me 80 pound for a basic bitch train ticket. I walked around and found MegaBus, and ended up buying a 20 pound ticket to London. Unlimited luggage, and I had the whole back seat to myself. It took only an hour more than the train would have.
After figuring out the Oyster system in London, it only took me 10 minutes to get to my hostel with all my bags weighing me down, holy Jesus. Am I carrying a small house on my back?
I fell asleep like a baby after a quick shop for dinner and fruit.
I woke up early and went to breakfast, where there was NO ONE around! Apparently no-one wakes up until 10h00!
I walked into town with not an idea what to do first! So I hoped on the boat and went to the first destination I saw. Which turned out to be Greenwich! This little village really is beautiful. After a 20 minute ferry ride, which the weather was chilly, but perfectly sunny for a London day, I arrived at the outskirts of London, in Greenwich. I walked through the Music University, and the Painted Hall, and chapel, which there were NO tourists around! So I had the place to myself. I also went inside the Maritime Museum, which gave a splendid history of Greenwich and how it developed as a maritime town, and also about how time begins and ends! Unfortunately, the observation dome on the top of the hill, that sits next to the cross bar (of which at 13h00 everyday a red ball drops from, and that defines GMT time) was closed, so I couldn’t go to see it up close. However I stood on the time-line, with about 20 million other tourists.
Back on the boat, and this time it took me to Waterloo, where I couldn’t stop myself from a quick snippet of ABBA. I embarked on the Queens Walk, which is a trail along the south bank of the Thames River which flows through London. I walked around from the HMS Belfast, which is now a permanently docked as a War time museum. I then went across the Tower Bridge, which is one of the most ornately dressed bridges I have ever been across. With beautiful blues, and reds, it certainly strikes the eye. As I said earlier, I had a perfect day in London weather wise, so everything looked beautiful under the sun. I then walked the whole perimeter of the Tower of London, Even though I was out and about fairly early (can’t remember what time exactly), there where millions of tourists lining up for the Tower of London.
I did bits of the walk, whilst hoping on and off the boat all day long, as the crew did a voluntary commentary of the history of the Thames River and London. I went to the London eye, and gawked for a while, until i saw the line. I finally arrived at Westminster Palace, and also in that area is the Elizabeth Tower (which holds “Big Ben”: Big Ben is actually the largest bell in the Elizabeth tower, so you can never see Big Ben, only hear him on the hour), and the famous Westminster Abbey. I didn’t get into Westminster because Parliament was in session, and then everyone was ushered away because there was a small protest that started to turn sour in front of the Parliament.
I got back onto the ‘underground’ or the tube to Blackfriars, which I needed to find the Tate Modern. This museum is a MUST-SEE! Highly interactive exhibitions and installations, and also the art is so different. I even witnessed Rothko’s exhibition! I also saw Picasso, Dali, the normal bitches at all the modern museums in the UK, Europe in general. Every decent museum has their own Dali piece, etc. Afterwards (after spending too much on art!) I trekked to Camden. Which has one of the largest markets, and vintage markets eva. It was fantastic! As it was beginning to get dark, the atmosphere was so cool, and the place had oodles of character. I highly recommend you spend a night out in Camden Town. So much to offer was a good price. It was steaming with people, milling around everywhere, I loved it!
I then went back into central London to Embankment, where I finally found a theater to buy some tickets for a show. London (well, Britain) is famous for their variety in shows, theater, musicals, comedy, opera, and so on. I knew that Bill Bailey, one of mine and my family’s comedy favorites was in town. So I got some last minute tickets for 30 pound to his limited time only show and went off to enjoy an English pub (up-market pub mind you!) dinner before the show.
Dinner was fantastic, and the people at the bar where so lovely! Afterwards I went off to the Vaudeville theater and took my seat five rows from the stage! It was an unbelievable show! I did not stop laughing and smiling and it was definitely worth every penny. I wish I had been in London over the weekend time so that I could have went to the Comedy Club to watch a few stand-up shows and also some raw comedic talent.
At around 22h30 the show ended and it took me the good part of an hour to get back to the hostel, which thankfully is right next to the underground station.
I slept in. A lot.
I decided that I didn’t get to spend enough time in Greenwich the day before. So, I went back on the boat and back to Greenwich! This time I went to their dedicated museum and also to the Greenwich markets, and went for a stroll around the town. It is so cozy and village-like. Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant is also there, which is fun. I went in and had a Mocha and a piece of cheesecake, and I was literally in heaven. Bench-seat on the window, looking out on this historical maritime village of Greenwich. This weather however was a bit shitty, and terrifically cold!
After a whimsical walk through Greenwich I got back on the cruise ship and went all the way to end of the boat line, to Westminster, as I didn’t get to see as much of it as I wanted to the other day.
I walked all the way around Westminster Parliament and it was protest-free! I ended up just walking wherever, and found myself at St. Paul’s, remembering the great fire of London in the 1600’s. I walked along the Thames and found myself at TATE Britain, which is TATE Modern’s older sibling. Again, a fabulously laid out museum, gallery, with absolutely great pieces of art. They have arranged the museum in a great way, you walk around it in a snake-like style going through time periods of paintings, sculptures, installations, and it also included overlapping periods in art, to show the change in general materials, colours, objectives, and so on in the art. Starting from the 1400’s until present!
As it was now nighttime, I had to make my way to Victoria Central station to reload my Oyster card for the following day (I had no idea how much I needed to put on my card to get to Heath-row the next day). The line was absurd! I also wanted to buy a ticket for the “Jack the Ripper” night walk tour, but because it took so long, I missed out on tickets!
I needed to get back to the hostel to clean all my clothes as I literally had NOTHING to wear (that was clean) for the next day. Laundry is expensive in hostels. It cost me 8 pound. Which is roughly 16.50 Australians dollars. Crying right now. But my clothes smell good.
All system go as I had to pack up, make sure I had everything ready to depart for SYDNEY, Australia! My plane didn’t depart until 20h00 that night, but getting there was going to be a massive effort.
Breakfast, and the hostel workers wee extremely unhelpful in the way of telling me how to get to the airport.
Anyway, so with my supposedly rain proof jacket I went to Buckingham Palace, something that I have always dreamed of. It was perfect! Walking through the gardens, the gorgeous gates, the guards, the smell of coffee and cake in the air, and oh, yeah a shit load of rain.
Turns out, my amazing fandangle Kathmandu all-terrain jacket is not in fact water proof. So I paid 5 pound for a plastic poncho. That’s roughly 11 dollars or more for a piece of plastic that was roughly an appropriate size for a small child. I am fair from the size of a “small child”.
I couldn’t help but laugh the whole morning because as I walked past people, they couldn’t stop laughing at the fact that I totally underestimated the English rain. And as hard as I try to melt into the crowds when I travel, I definitely stood out like a sore thumb.
I walked back to the hostel to collect my things, and realized that my bags where a lot lighter then when I arrived to Ireland only a week or so before. So I just rested in the warm for a bit to wait for the torrential rain to die down. Hence, a cute coffee break in an organic coffee house a few shops down.
Making my way to Heathrow airport from my hostel in the outskirts of London was one of the EASIEST trips I have ever made. Maybe because I was speaking my mother tongue and not trying to blurt out foreign words.
However, my wait at the airport was terrifically long, as my flight was delayed by two hours, and I nearly missed my connection flight in Dubai (they held the plane for us). Met a few Kiwi’s looking to go back home.
When you are going home, even though flying for over 20 hours is legit the shittiest thing in this world, I was so overly excited!
I arrived in the Sydney International Airport at 8am on Saturday the 9th of January. But about 2pm that afternoon I was fast asleep in my grandparents back room, consumed by the crazy heat of the Australian summer. Australia has different smells, less polluted, less compact.
“If you go anyway, even paradise, you will miss your home.”
Continuing on from last weeks installment about Dublin, Ireland.
After waking up at around 06h00 to get to breakfast early and then to the tour bus, I had a little nap on the bus, thank god it wasn’t over-crowded.
On Sunday I decided that I should go on a fully guided tour for Monday. I did consider going to the Cliffs of Moher, however, I would really like to leave that for when the weather isn’t so horrible and also I would like to take my parents there. Yeah, I know, I am lovely.
So I picked the Wicklow Mountain tour, which basically takes us through a county close to Dublin, and we experience some real Irish countryside, mingled between long yarns, Irish humor and the history of Ireland.
The English did reap a bit of havoc there didn’t they?
Our main destination of the tour were two places, the “P.S. I love you” Bridge, and Glendalough, with a few stops along the way for pictures and just general awe.
Before we started the ascent into the Wicklow mountains, we stopped at the Center for Peace a Recreation, which is where two old English Army barracks lie. This place has housed many peace talks for nations, and some prominent individuals have visited there. I had a coffee and lemon cake while I was there, and even though a part of me cried thinking about how much I paid, my tummy thanked me.
We then trekked into the mountains, and the rain turned up the anty. We stopped on the side of the road near the locally known Guinness estate, or ‘Luggala’. It is quite luxurious, and we looked down upon it from the top of a mountain overlooking the estate, the mist covering the lake like a sheet, it was perfectly beautiful. Many famous people visit Luggala for rehabilitation purposes, but in the sense of getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Michael Jackson, U2, and to be used as the set of various advertisements, Braveheart, Vikings, and so on. 25 years ago they imported sand to make a beach, and you can see the beach just from the side of the road.
Then back on the bus. Our local Dubliner tour guide had a lot of funny material, and I was the only Australian on the tour, so I copped a fair amount of it. But, he was talking about how the Irish tend to only really speak English now, etc, etc, and then in a thick French accent said “Oh I ‘ate the English”, and it was hilarious, but then I looked over at the group of French tourists, and they did not look happy Jan. So I started laughing at their reaction, bloody hilarious.
Our next stop was the bridge where the famous scene in “P.S. I love you” was shot. The rain felt like little knives in my skin. I am taking pictures from my phone, so lets not be too harsh.
When we arrived at Glendolough, our bus driver gave us a brief tour of the runs. Which included a 6th century little church, which is fondly called Kevin’s Kitchen, because it was uncharacteristic for that time for churches to have chimneys, for anyone who doesn’t know, smoke ceremonies, and incense is used a lot, especially back in the beginning of Celtic Christianity.
I literally don’t even know where to start explaining the history that went on here, so in a nutshell, Kevin, ran away to the mountains to seclude himself and become more in touch with god, he built a monastery, then years later people flocked there to become apart of the new craze, then the English came and occupied Ireland, and during the Protestant reformation, the Glendolough monastery became abandoned because monks and abbots had to flea for their lives. In the 17th century it was rediscovered by locals, and they added buildings and started a cemetery because of the supposed ‘holiness’ of the place, and life goes on.
Wow, I just cut like over 1000 years of history to nothing, so don’t use this as your guide for reports people.
For lunch we visited a small town and had a traditional pub lunch. I had a local beef and Guinness stew with mash potato, so filling and I was so happy with it.
Our tour guide sang us traditional Irish songs on the bus also, and gave us a taste of the Irish culture, and the division between Dublin and Belfast.
I arrived back in Dublin around 7:30pm, completely pooped.
At 9pm there are free movies and popcorn at the hostel, so I joined in fro some avengers.
I stated off my day at the National Archives of Ireland to find out that they had quite a few records destroyed during the rebellion and WWI. To visit and use the free facilities of the National archives, you need two pieces of ID, one photo ID and another piece of ID confirming your address, I just used my drivers license and passport.
After I finished the paperwork, I spent 30 minutes with a qualified archivist and genealogist to help me find out more about my Irish heritage. Over 15 years ago, my Mother’s Father’s distant Irish cousin had a family tree book made up, and this was the first thing that came up, and the woman commented that the book had actually been made within that institute! It was really interesting.
Afterwards I went for some brunch at the cutest cafe which was situated underneath terrace buildings. It has been one of the only times when I have had a hand-made decent cappuccino, with home-made pastry’s. Heaven.
I fell into the museum district afterwards, and it was so good. The first place I went to was the Little Museum of Dublin, and this is a must do if you are in Dublin! Do a walking tour and go to this Museum, and THEN do all the other things. This museum is not only for the history buffs, but it has some great interaction and visual artifacts of modern Dublin (Ireland sometimes). For a student it is 4.50e and any ticket you buy gives you access to the tours and that museum for the duration of the whole day, so you can pop in and out. The tour guide was fantastic, and did a great job of involving everyone and explaining the evolution of Dublin, and also she gave a great overview of the rebellion and so on. I cannot recommend this museum enough, it is by far, the best museum I have ever been too. It is perfectly set up.
It Also had a great room telling the story of the rise of U2, Ireland’s arguably most famous band. It was really interesting, and I am not a U2 fan, don’t hate them, but, I would not be able to name a song.
Afterwards I made my way to the National Museum of Ireland, which is full of archaeological artifacts from not only Dublin and Ireland, but from around the world. They currently have a great exhibition on Egypt, with films, tours and the works. This museum if free, and I spent ages there. Lots to read and even more to look at. I was also in love with the door-openings, intricate ceramic tiles outlined the door.
Across the road, literally, is the National Library of Ireland, and it has a permanent exhibition on Ireland main poets, writers and dramatists, whilst also having one of the most beautiful reading rooms I have ever seen Unfortunately you can not take photos, but believe me, it was so beautiful.
It took me around 10 minutes to get from there to the National Gallery, which again, is also free. I got a little lost however. oops! It was a really lovely gallery featuring the works of Turner, Monet, Reynolds, and a hand-full of local artists as well. The people then directed me across town to the National Museum of Photography, which was in a modern building in the Temple Bar District.
I finished my day with a Baileys Hot chocolate at a bar near my hostel (Jacob’s Inn), and dropped in through IceLand (a supermarket that only sells frozen food) to buy some onion soup for dinner!
Breakfast and packing. Story of my life. #life, #whatapain.
I needed to walk to Connolly station to buy a ticket to Belfast, which thankfully I got there in time for the 09h30 train to Belfast. As a student you have to buy the ticket on the day to get the discount, and trust me the discount is worth it, and there are always tickets. I got there ten minutes before the train left to buy a ticket and I got one easy. It was 20e.
The train ride to Belfast from Dublin is so beautiful. Its a great way to see the east coast of Ireland. The seats are comfy and the trains are definitely not overcrowded. I had a nice cup of tea and some biccies.
When I finally got to Belfast the weather was looking nasty. I finally found my hostel which is in the Queen’s quarter, otherwise known as the university neighborhood. its called Lagan Backpackers and it is ‘chill’ as hell. Oh lordy be, people are just hanging about everywhere, and the hostel is run by people who also are travelers.
After getting some stellar directions from the front desk, I wondered off to get some lunch. A quick chicken sandy with a drink. Changing my euros to pounds were a little hard, as I had about 20 euro in coins and money changers of any kind do not take coins. This made me sad. But not as sad as the exchange rate.
My first stop was the Ulster Museum, which is literally a museum of EVERYTHING. And I mean EVERYTHING. The first floor was dedicated to the period of Belfast/Irish history called “The Troubles”, which is basically when Ireland started to split up and a lot of people died. Ireland’s history is beautifully displayed throughout ALL ages, including those of the Vikings, and even the start of the formation of the island itself. It also had a great exhibition on the elements, as in iron, helium, banana, etc. To on the top level with art from around the world, from the last 100 years, with a moving exhibition with portraits of those people affected still by “The Troubles”.
This museum is free, and I highly recommend you go there, it literally has something for everyone.
Outside the museum in the Palm House, and the beautiful Botanic gardens, so I had a lovely trollop through there during a short interval in the rain.
Next stop was the Lyric Theatre, renown all over Ireland, and one of the most famous in Belfast. It sits on the river and it is a fairly modern theatre. Unfortunately I went there when they were starting to set up for a performance, so there were no free guided tours that day.
Thursday – New Years Eve
So at 7am my day started with a heart English breakfast cooked by the hostel cook. He was English, so he cooked me an English breakfast. It was so yummy.
At 9:30 I boarded the bus and met a Brazilian girl, and an English girl from my hostel. One lived in Cork on study abroad and the English girl was just “discovering her kingdom”.
Our first stop consisted of looking at a castle, just plopped in the middle of a coastal town. The Irish seaside is so beautiful! Oh my goodness. And the weather was FREEZING, but really lovely. We drove along the coastal route of Northern Ireland, witnessing all the main ports, the Irish sea, I also saw Scotland! The closest point between Ireland and Scotland is only a mere 15 miles!
We stopped at this beautiful little bridge, at a castle owned by a prominent Family, the MacDonalds. The clouds looked as though they were going to burst, but thankfully, it stayed fine.
Our lunch stop was at the famous rope bridge, which connects two major
rocks/mountains/things that fisherman hundreds of years ago built. Don’t worry the bridge I walked across is fairly new, and currently conserved by the National Trust, so it was a harsh 5 pound to walk across a bridge. Ah! But the weather was sensational, and the views were tenfold better. The skies were so blue! It was truly amazing. The bridge hangs 30m above the sea, and I could definitely feel the wind pushing and pulling at the bridge. The bridge by the way is string 80% made up of rope.
It took a solid 20 minutes to walk from the café to the bridge, but the walk is so refreshing and at times a little bit of an effort with the hills, hundreds of stairs, and winding in and out of the countryside.
It took me around an hour and a half to d the extended trek with the bridge, and walking back to the bus for the next part of the journey.
The final and most exciting part (apparently I preferred the rope bridge the most) was the Giants Cascades. Which, for an unknown reason this whole area of cliff/beach/rock pools are created by this crazy pattern. Like a honeycomb I think. It was a lot of fun to walk around, but the wind was shocking! Oh my god, I literally was blown over!
So Juliana and I walked back to the café to hide in waiting for the bus. The weather was becoming catastrophic.
At around 7pm we got back to the hostel, and it was time for a dinner of hummus, carrots with fresh bread and cheese. This kiwi girl, came bellowing into the kitchen declaring that beer pong would be played tonight and we all had to put money in. So I did.
Beer pong is not my game of choice as it requires skill and general co-ordination, of which I have none. Nevertheless its a good way to get everyone drinking and as ‘loose as a goose’. I met up with the girls who I had been on the day tour with, and the cheeky banter started. Suddenly, ten other Australians came out of the cracks of this hostel, and it got loud.
Everyone, as per usual, is from either Sydney, or Melbourne, and they are definitely city-slickers. This one guy was trying to tell someone that there are barely any snakes in Australia. Well, yes, in the middle of Sydney, I would presume there are not many snakes slithering around.
Sometimes, I am to country-bumkin for my own good.
We somehow ended up at a pub called the Cuckoo. Which is as close to a bar gets to a club in Belfast apparently. The dancing space was limited, and I felt not the venue to get low and dance.
I remember that at around 10 minutes before midnight we left the bar/club and went to a less crowded pub down the road, still lovely however. And it was because at midnight, it gave out free champagne and Guinness for 30 minutes.
I got home before 4am. I think.
Friday –New Year’s Day
Well, after a fairly full on night out, I was feeling quite heavy. I eventually got into the middle of Belfast, and the weather was AWEFUL! So there were no walking tours, everything was shut. I was so upset, because the day before I had been assured that everything would be open. SO I did the touristiest thing known to man, get on one of those ‘Hop-On, Hop-Off’ buses, with the guided tour. It was really good. And it meant that I didn’t have to walk everywhere in the rain, hungover and hungry.
There are a few interesting things about Belfast, and a far few revolve around the fact that today it is still fairly segregated in terms of religion. Are you Catholic or are you Protestant? In the west of the city I found myself in an area that actually had large steel gates, (not nice looking gates either) that separated the protestant and catholic neighborhoods. This is in the same area as the ‘Peace’ wall, which runs for nearly two miles. People pilgrim from around the world to sign and witness the peace wall, and many famous people have done so. It also has dedicated spaces for places like Syria, Baghdad, Ukraine and so on. In this part of town, the murals were a significant characteristic. Between neighborhoods, the general feel, look and ideas portrayed in the murals were vastly different.
I also passed through the Titanic area. The titanic was built in Belfast, and as we all known it tragically sank in 1911(?). The Belfast people say that is was fine when it left the harbor. They have a fantastic museum there, that also recounts the industrial revolution in Ireland, as well as the boat/ship making process, and of course, everything there is to know about the Titanic.
There is also this really quirky bell tower, Albert’s Bell tower. It was built on river land, which is basically filled in river banks. This meant that the tower now leans a couple of feet to the left (depending on where you stand). It has since been stabilized, and deemed as safe however.
I realised that is was about 4pm when I went and found some much needed chicken. Chicken is so popular in Belfast, chicken shops everywhere. It was also nice to be back in the warm again.
I forgot that I had a cruise ship to catch the next day, so I needed to find out how to get from my hostel at 8am to the terminal by 9am. After two hours of walking from station to station and trying to find out information I gave up and went back to the hostel.
I was so bloody tired, and I needed to pack up all of my stuff.
I curled up in my bed with a hot chocolate and a movie for the evening, since it was like a blizzard outside and freezing.
6am and it felt like I was the only person in the hostel, but that was ok because I finally got to use the ‘working’ shower, which is the only shower that gets hot.
Because I gave up on public transport, and it was raining so badly outside, I took a taxi from the hostel to the terminal. For 8pounds I got to the terminal in ten minutes, dry and with someone helping me with my bags. Bloody fantastic.
9 hours on a cruise ship. Wi-Fi, coffee, food, telly. Great. Shit weather though.
Arrival in Liverpool, around 7pm. Then started the long walk (made worse by the fact that my bags currently weigh around 30 + kilograms all together. My poor back. I stayed at the YHA Hostel, and its so nice and clean, however I did have to sleep on the top bunk.
I decided, since I could leave for Manchester at literally any time, I should take in a little of Liverpool and what it has to offer. So I woke up early, checked out, and then went for a walk around the docks.
It started to rain, and I was completely drenched! My Kathmandu jacket can only take so much rain.
I walked into Liverpool city and waited around for the walking tours to start, and because the rain was so bad, they cancelled it half an hour in.
SO I returned to the docks and booked a place on the Magic Mystery Bus tour, which is a nearly three hour tour of Liverpool and great facts about the Beatles and where they began, thrived, and fell. It was a really fun tour to go on, and gave an amazing look inside the lives of the famous. They all had fairly humble and sad childhoods.
Like most at that time, their lyrics are about Liverpool, and we visited those places (most of) that are in the songs. Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane, their childhood homes, neighborhoods, schools, and the locality of Liverpool. They were all born and grew up within less than a half mile radius of each other, how amazing is that! And a string of coincidental events brought them together to become the most famous band in history.
The tour guides were great, the weather was shit (so a bus tour was welcomed), the information was really interesting and well put together, however it cost me a cold hard 16 pound. Ahhhhhh. So 32AUS.
Anyway, afterwards I went back to the hostel and picked up my stuff and caught the train to Manchester.
I arrived in Manchester around 5pm and trekked my way to the Hostel in the rain. Luckily it was only a short 20 minute walk (not short at all). At the hostel I was greeted by two Australian guys who have traveled through Tumut! So we shared some country-bumkin stories before I went to my room.
In my room I recognized a girl I had met at the hostel in Liverpool! It was so crazy.
Off to the supermarket to get some much needed fruit and chocolate milk. Fruit cancels out the chocolate milk right?
This week I encountered a few crazy moments, finished up in Budapest, said goodbye to my room-mate and said a final good bye to Paris, this is definitely the end of my Paris adventure, and the journey (with a few stops around Ireland and the UK) back to Oz.
My first full day in Budapest, and I have to say, I was a little underwhelmed by the city. I stayed mostly on the Pest side for the duration of the day, which houses the Jewish quarter (of which my interesting… hostel was located in the middle of) and also the biggest bath houses, parks, monuments, Christmas market galore (as per usual) and so much more. I didn’t realize that the city had been divided into tow, Buda, and Pest. The Buda side is known as the ‘illogical’ side, as it has a large hill, and the oldest of buildings. Which is beautiful because in the evening I was up there and I looked over the city all lit up. It was magical.
I was recommended to go on two walking tours called, literally, the ‘Communist’ tour and the ‘Jewish’ Tour.So creative. So I started with the Communism tour. I did not realize that Budapest, and Hungary in general still has not recovered for their communist era. So on the Pest side, you will see lots of grey concrete buildings, as they still have a weak economy, lots of debts and housing problems. I thought that Budapest may have been a more prosperous city. Apparently not.
It was a really interesting tour, and gave a lot of background information and context to the city, and country. I do’t recommend you go on this tour if you don’t like political history, or sad stories. I was in shock.
I suppose Australia is so far away from all of this, no one wants to invade us. Or occupy us, bomb us or anything.
I also met this guy, who I had unintentionally traveled with on the same buses, and stayed at the same hostels as him for the last five days. So we had lunch together with a few other people I had met, and just chatted.
We then separated and I went for a nice walk around the city, and I finally purchased a chimney cake. I have being eyeing those bastards off for a while now, so I decided to get one. I hated it. So sweat. Too sweat.
I then arrived back at the Walking tour meeting site for the second tour, the General Budapest tour, and I found a few friends from before, and met an British guy who is an auditor. He was surprised
when I said I knew what that was. Who doesn’t know what an auditor is? We then engaged in some Mother-Land
banter, and I made sure I kept a decent not-so-Australian-accent on. This tour was WAY more interesting, as the guide was a little more our age, and we walked all around the city, both sides, Buda and Pest.
We explored more of the Buda side, and our final destination being the top of the castle that overlooked the city. And as it was closing in on Christmas and night time, the buildings were lit up like Christmas trees, and it was beautiful. Just go, just go.
I woke up a little later than I wanted, but I was ready to leave by 8h30, checked out and headed to the bath houses, and Castle on the far Pest side of the Danube. Gorgeous walk, and I started to see the less touristy, and more colourful (in a quaint way) side of Budapest.
It took me around thirty minutes to walk to my destination, and the road opened up to acres of parks.
It took me a little over an hour and a half to get to the Airport, and then ages to get through security and customs (sometimes I wish I was European just for the lack of paperwork and checks). The boarding gate was only announced twenty minutes before the plane was due to take off. Is this normal? Shit, did I feel the anxiety! So, I actually ran to the gate when it was announced, and the plane was delayed for some reason, so I was the first one there by a mile.
Needless to say I made it back to Paris, thank god. Although, I had to do a quick stop through the shops for din dins.
So At around 5h30 to 6h00, I let out Caro, my room-mate for the last couple of months and set here free, to fly back to ‘Merica. It was a sad moment, and I was extremely tired, so you can only imagine how unemotional I was. No word of a lie, when I am tired, my emotions are non-existent, all that matters is sleep. But I will miss that crazy bitch, and I hope to meet her again some day in the U.S. or in Australia. I hope to see all my beautiful international friends again some day. I am so blessed to have met every single one of them.
I started the day off at around 10h00, by realizing that I didn’t have any shampoo and that I looked like a homeless person, which after all the travelling and barely nay sleep, was pretty accurate.
I went into La Defense to go to my bank, LCL, and close my account. However, pro-tip, they only accept letters of cancellation at the start of the month of which you want to cancel it, and because I can’t cancel mine until April next year, I have been told to send the cancellation letter from Australia next year. They could have told me this agessssss ago, and saved a whole lot of stress. I then went and did some grocery shopping, and reloaded my NaviGo for a week, because that 21e is cheaper than buying individual tickets for four days, and tickets to the airport.
Thursday – Christmas Eve
So it’s Christmas eve, a day when if I was in Australia I would be possibly drinking, going to church. Sitting on the lawn in front of the church whilst a bunch of little kids re-enact the nativity scene. So cute.
I decided going to Church would still be a good idea, and being in Paris, the options for beautiful cathedrals and basilicas are endless! Obviously, a lazy walk around the bottom of Montmatre was needed, before I found my way up to Sacré Coeur. When I got up to the basilica, I found a man playing harp, well, it’s not like I found him in the gutter playing the Harp, he was performing of the steps of Sacré Coeur, to a small crowd, and the sun was out. Something I never expected in Paris around this time of year. As you can expect, I sat there and looked over Paris for quite a while listening to the Harpist.
Then I went up into the Basilica and joined in on the mass at the back. There was also a choir who sang, and it was beautiful.
Afterwards I just randomly walked around Paris, letting the crowds of people take me where ever. I ended up at the Tuilleries, a garden in front of the Lourve, and there weren’t that many people about. SO I found a chair to sit down on easy. My hand keeps getting in the way of photos, and every time I crop a photo is goes weird. Needless to say, I cannot photo.
The afternoon/evening was filled with me skyping all my Australian family and friends for it was Christmas day in their time zone.
Friday – Jesus’s Birthday
Well, I don’t know how to say this, but I wasn’t sad on Christmas because my family wasn’t around. On various occasions we have had Christmas on a different day due to my parents shift work, seeing different family members from around the state and so on. I went to Notre Dame and didn’t even stay for the whole Christmas Mass and concerto afterwards because ‘tourists’ (am I still classed as a tourist? Well, at least I’m not THAT kind of tourist), where standing in the way taking photos with the peace sign. It’s a mass people, sit your arse down and respect what’s going on. I am not deeply religious, but a little bit of common sense and respect is nice.
I then walked around to the gardens behind Notre Dame and ate my last Parisian crepe of nutella and banana, because that it the only way to eat a crepe.
I wandered into the Hotel de Ville center, and discovered an exhibition on, which featured large plastic colourful animals statues, in a maze-like formation. It was really cool, and since the sky was ultra blue, It was very pretty. I was surprised by how much was open on Christmas day, and how many tourists were milling about. It was crazy. the T2 tram that I use to get from La Defense to My house, it was still just as busy as normal. So weird. However, I do live in a quarter known for its high percentage of middle eastern origin, so celebrating the birth of J-dawg isn’t high on the priority list, which it meant I could buy some bread.
I left the middle of Paris with a small tear in my eye, thinking of all the people I have met, all the thins I have experienced here, and how it will all seem like a distant land when I return back to Oz. I think I definitely should have done a year, both to further expand my language skills, and also, I fell like there is so much I didn’t have a chance to do, even though I was busy almost 100% of the time. However, I fear that my family could not go a year without my presence gracing them every now and then.
When I got home I started to cook my turkey (not a full turkey, just a few piece I had marinated in honey and garlic the night before), and prepare the roast vegetables. I was going to have a little feast, as I cleaned my room, packed everything away, and decided what would and would not make the cut to return/go to Australia. It took me a lot longer than expected, and I had to throw out a copious amount of paper, and food, because there were not going to be that many tenants for a while in the apartment.
I sat down to a Christmas film and my meal, finishing off with dark chocolate covered strawberry’s and a cup of tea.
Saturday- Boxing Day
Not so much celebrated here as back in Australia, but nevertheless, there were millions of people around. I had to clean out my French bank account and buy a few garbage bags for the finishing touches, so I took my sweet time.
I had naps throughout the day, which was a little hard as I needed to wash my sheets and make my bed, sweep, wipe down benches/tables/desks and make sure that everything was in tip-top shape for the next person in my room. I could already feel that I was going to be super tired by the end of it all.
My flight to Dublin was at 6am the next morning and I needed to be there 3 hours beforehand due to the nature of security and also I needed to pay for baggage and check it in. It takes just over an hour to get from where I live to Charles de Gualle Airport, so I would have had to have left at 2am, which was not possible due to the metro and RER being closed at that time, and also to throw another spanner in the works, I needed someone to let me out of the house, and garden, as I would have to hand my keys in. So Paulo, my landlord let me out at 10pm, which was very kind of him to stay up that late, but it meant that I had to spend a VERY long time alone at the airport. Thank god for free WiFi at the airport.
I arrived early into Dublin and blessed sweet baby Jesus for English (apart from Irish, which lets be honest inst really spoken in the streets of Dublin) is the main language, and everyone can understand me! The stress and anxiety of travelling has not revealed itself, as I can easily ask for help, and people are so willing to help here in Dublin.
Getting to my hostel was easy peasy, and they let me check-in at 9am! Which is amazing, so I freshened up and went to have a light breakfast at the cafe next door.
This cafe is run by three old guys (I do not know how they are connected), and they were so delightful and ever so helpful. It was certainly a lovely way to be welcomed to Dublin. I had booked a place on a *free walking tour again for the morning at 10:10am. I met a few different people on the tour from All around, but I was the only Australian! Imagine that.
The tour guide, oh lordy be, he was the stereotypical Irish lova, and definitely had every 20-something year old swooning for him. We went all over town including the Dublin castle (which was closed, so we just got a history lesson outside), St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the beginnings of Catholicism in Dublin/Ireland, so many churches, and double the amount of pubs. And I mean traditional, dark, dingy, the smell of cigy’s and dry beer everywhere, old men sitting in the corner with a newspaper and a beer, and barmen cleaning out glasses. I had a small glass of liquid ass, AKA, Guinness, it is definitely not for everyone, but I tried it for my Grandfather.
The stop at the bar in temple Bar (Temple Bar is a really hip area, but there is also a pub in Temple Bar called “Temple Bar”, so confusing) lasted for a long time. And started at 11:30am. Afterwards we journeyed through to Trinity college, and he told us stories about how the harsh reality of the Catholic church in Ireland only recently started to go away. With his own mother being one of the victims of having her first child taken away due to not being married. In the last five years he helped his Mother find her first son, and they were successful. Have to admit, there was a little tear in my eye. Baby Jesus.
When the tour ended I wandered around trinity, the grounds are beautiful, and the weather outside was beginning to become a little unbearable. So I retreated into a cafe for some lunch, a hearty chicken sandwich. I could not believe how beautiful the day started out and how completely feral the weather got, and so quickly. I picked the wrong day to go monument hunting, and all the museums were closed.
Nevertheless I entertained myself on this rainy day in Dublin, bars were my main retreat. I had an Irish coffee in one dingy bar around the Temple bar district, and it was perfect. I felt so warm and cozy. I just wanted to curl up in the corner like a kitten.
At this point I was pretty bloody tired, so I just went back to the hostel to organised my things. However on the way, the sky decided to settle down a bit, and I passed through the castle part of Dublin again and found this beautiful church with a wall that commemorated famous Irish writers, poets, etc. I saw Beckett, Samuel Bloody Beckett. For those who don’t know, he wrote “Waiting for Godot”, and this play was the vain of my existence in high school when I studied drama. Thank you Mr Mitchell for blessing our class with that. When I got to the hostel I fell asleep. In the most uncomfortable bunk bed ever.
“There is nothing to be done”
Act 1, Waiting for Godot
Continue to next week’s post for more on Dublin and Ireland in general…
Carrying on from last weeks post with my last day in Germany’s capital, Berlin.
I woke up really early, as the night before fell asleep in the common room at around 8:30pm, and decided I was a little too tired.
I first went walk-about through Berlin, and watched the sunrise at Brandburger Tor. It was gorgeous, as there are lots of monuments, and exquisite gardens in that area. I didn’t take any photos because I was so wrapped up in the beauty around me. Sometimes having a good time means there will be a lack of photos.
I then went to the Jüdisches Museum Berlin, with three levels explaining Jews throughout the war, background on
religion, and there was a part of the museum not only on Judaism, and Finally, Judaism in Germany today, and before the War. I highly recommend this museum, just get off at Checkpoint charlie and walk five minutes. It is also a bit of an architectural masterpiece. I found it particularly interesting that the architect had designed various places in the museum to be vacant. An area called the “voided void” is an open space, twenty plus meters high with only one slit of natural light lighting the room inefficiently. You can hear voices from the outside in the distance, and the room is not heated. It was extremely cold (because I was there in December), and erry. It is something to walk through not in a group, and leave at least two or so hours to see everything.
I then realised I needed to get back to the hostel pick up my bag and head to the airport.
Now, children, I had the WORST time getting to the airport. The directions seemed straightforward. But they were not. Long story short, at 2:30pm I was crying in the middle of German metro because at this point I only had one hour to get to the boarding gate and I had no idea where I was, how to call a taxi or who could help me. All seemed to be lost. I had an exam to be at 8am the next morning in Paris, and other planes to catch.
Until a dear old lady came over to me, and without a word of English spoken, helped me find the bus I needed to take to get the the airport. I am forever grateful to that woman.
I ran for my liiiiiffffffeeeee when I got off the bus and made it through the boarding gates. Luckily the flight was running behind time, so I had 5 minutes to spare.
When I arrived in Paris I literally jumped for joy. I could understand the language, I knew exactly where to go, how to buy tickets, and I slept in my own bed. Bliss
Bloody hell, I prepared well for the exam at 8:30am. Just joking, I barely looked over my notes, but when I got in there is what a pretty straight forward exam. I had paid attention throughout the semester, so I didn’t have too much trouble completing it.
Afterwards I washed my clothes, and roamed Paris for a day. However I do not have my NaviGo anymore because It wasn’t financially viable for me to renew it for a month again.
Dan, Dave, Beny, Caroline and myself went to Mardi Biere. The Tuesday Beer Club (formally known as the Thursday beer club). What a superb night. How can I describe saying goodbye to some people that have made such an impact on me (positively) over the last couple of months? Our ties to each other have grown strong, and I think that (brace yourself, the cliche is coming) where ever we are all around the world, we will always have memories like these to feed our everlasting friendship.
*tear ducts (ducks? Imagine ducks flowing from your eyes when you cried- crazy) filling up *
The bar didn’t have any food, and since my unit doesn’t have food either, We all went in search of the foods. Caro and I obtained a chicken burga and chippies, and she had a fab conversation in french with the manager, I sat there and smiled, with an occasional ‘oui’ and ‘je sais’. I am so french it hurts sometimes.
So after a glorious night with everyone, I had to do a couple of last minute things and also get ready for my Prague/Vienna/Budapest trip that evening. AKA, I forgot to print off my tickets and had to go into uni to do that. Ahh.
At 16:30 I boarded the plane to Prague. Transavia, more expensive then EasyJet and obviously RyanAir, but it was a very small plane.
Anyway, When I got to Prague I realized that my phone had run out of battery and I was in a bit of pickle concerning getting to my hostel. After some intense map reading I got to my hostel which was situated in the grounds of the Largest Palace in the World, “Prague Castle” and therefore happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage site.
So my first night I met two other girls, who did not want to interact, and a few people that didn’t speak English or French (not to say that I am proficient in french), so I relaxed, walked around, found some food, and fruit! Fruit is a blessing. Then off to bed to prepare my body for the brutal day of walking ahead.
What a beautiful city! I am in love!
I found my way to the main square, where the biggest Christmas markets are/were. A band was playing in the square, these chimney cakes, infused with a shitload of sugar and cinnamon were being cooked over traditional hot coals. It smelt amazing.
Finally, after walking through the square again, these tours are fantastic as they are trying their hardest to entertain you and give you the best information.
We had a local guy who has traveled all around the world and even started up his own charity which builds water-wells in Africa. The history in Prague is amazing, and the scenery is perfect. I was in constant awe of this beautiful city.
The tour took us through the old town, and we tended to stay on that side of the late, other then when we looked at the Charles Bridge, which was very well situated near my hostel/palace.
In the afternoon I took a nice long walk to the Parliament, and then along the river, as it is beautiful. The buildings that line the side of the river are just picture perfect, except for the fact that I cannot take a decent picture for the life of me on a broken phone. I accidentally dropped my phone in the rocks.
In the evening, that seems to start so early! I decided to go on the pub/bar crawl that my Hostel, (along with other hostels in Prague) organised for people around(-ish) my age. This is by far the best way to meet people and enjoy some of the nightlife in Prague, as it gets dark so quickly, the sight-seeing tends to stop sooner in this part of the year. So why not taste and drink some of Prague’s finest? With some of the world’s not so finest? Fantastic! I met a lot of interesting and fun people.
Also gave me a great chance to see the Christmas markets at night, which are fabulous in Europe. The lights, the smells, the sounds, and all the trinkets you can think of. Its beautiful.
I got up to the sounds of new roomies giggling at something, hopefully it wasn’t moi. Anyway, I had a little bit of time to kill in Prague/Praha before I had to catch my Flixbus to Vienna at around lunch time.
So I walked all the way to the top of Prague Castle. Which I should clarify, Prague castle is more like a massive Palace that consists of over 35 buildings and is situated on the top of a hill, so it overlooks the wonderful city below. I was both freezing and sweating at the same time! As it is a bit of a hike, but so worth it when you get to the top. The mist was just touching the top of the city, making it hard for me to see the tele-tower with the three bronze babies (statues) crawling up it. The colours in this city are delightful, and I thoroughly recommend you go to Praha if you are ever so fortunate.
Then it was the hardest part of my day, trying to find the spot where the International Bus Station is, so that I could travel to Vienne. It took about 5 and a half hours, because our bus was running a little bit late, however, it wasn’t packed so I had a good nap on the way.
Again, why don’t I pre-check where my hostel is? So this time I stayed in a somewhat ‘up-market’ hostel, which costs 20e a night for a comfy bed in a 10 share with en-suite. Which is pretty standard. They had events going every night, so I signed up for the Christmas market ‘crawl’ (kind of like a pub crawl except with Christmas markets-just as much alcohol though), and also the hostel ran its own free city tour. Wien, as is its German name, is a beautiful city,
capital of Austria, ‘city of music’ apparently, and has some high class culture, e.g; opera, architecture, arts, antique shit everywhere, the works! We have to realize that Vienna was basically protected during the world wars by the Nazi’s who fancied nice building and the arts in general, and also that Vienna was the capital of the Roman Empire twice (if I remember correctly). So the city is beautiful, and they speak German and I barely found a person who didn’t speak English.
After a walk around Naschtmarkt, which is where my hostel was located, I went to bed for an early morning.
Gouda cheese and nice bread, with a coffee for breakfast? Yes please. How will I survive in Australia, well, rural Australia without Dutch cheese and decent bread? I will bloody have a heart attack.
Anyway, on the tour of the city we learned more about how the World War II and the Nazi regime impacted on Vienna, and also about the emerging architectural styles within the city. I think the best thing to do when you get to a new city/place (especially when you don’t speak the language) is to do a walking tour. I think I say this a lot, because it is true.
I met a Canadian girl, who was SUPER nice and studied in Amsterdam for the past semester, which sounds fun, because I absolutely loved Amsterdam, so chilled. I also met a swag full of Australians, and some Aussie tourists from country NSW, aka, where I am from. It has been so long since I heard a country Australian accent. I also met a few other students who where just travelling to Vienna for the weekend during the break of their exchange.
We stopped by the main ‘main’ square (in my opinion) and beheld the building that Hitler announced Austria’s and Germany’s alliance in the World War II. It’s amazing how we can stand in place that has so many historical pinpoints, and sometimes I just cannot comprehend what happened in these places. Like, how? Why? Gosh, it really does open the door for more questions doesn’t it?
We also visited the palace, and statue of Mary Antoinette’s Father. She had a large family, and you can see how the decadence in Vienna and her upbringing impacted on the way she lived in
After a VERY quick lunch I hoped off to the Antique Library, holding ancient handwritten books from Maximilian, and other historic personal. And it was in such a magnificent building. Blew me away completely.
I spent a full hour in just one room, which I must admit, was basically a ball room filled with beautiful old books. And there was barely anyone there! Very cheap admission, especially for students, and I went at peak time in the day for tourists, and saw a whole ten people.
I was alerted to the idea of 4.50e standing tickets for the opera in Vienna. So, I went to line up for the tickets at 14h30 and the opera, by Strauss, a famous Austrian composer, was to start at 17h30. It was worth it and totally amazing, not only was the music just… oh god, how do I even put it into words? Brilliant! The theater itself was also enchanting and beautiful to gawk at.
The feet were very sore.
Afterwards I went on the Christmas Market tour. Europe loves Christmas. Love love love Christmas. It’s like being in a wonderland, and the mulled wine! Every country has their own slightly different version, but its all beautiful and certainly warms the body and soul on a cold winters eve. Before going to bed I stopped off and got some sushi for a
light dinner, and then went home.
Also, I should explain and report to everyone about this really cool fact. In Vienna, they replaced over 60 traffic lights with straight/gay/lesbian couples holding hands, instead of the stereotypical single person walking or standing. They also have little hearts that light up between the two people! So cute.
As per the usual European style, NOTHING is open on a Sunday be very careful if you plan to stay anywhere for a full Sunday and see how many of their attractions are actually open. However, Sunday can always be a day to explore the city and parks, walk along the river and so on.
I also had very sore feet from the day before, so I certainly wasn’t racing anywhere. I decided to trek to Belvedere, which is a summer castle/palace, and now holds a few visual art collections, with public gardens. I was also delighted to see that it was not crowded, and there were Christmas markets there!
So after a peek inside the museum (as I was a bit short on time, because I had to catch the bus at noon), went and got a cheeky hot chocolate and wandered around the beautiful gardens. The weather was frosty, and the fog
blanketed the city, but it was still so beautiful in it’s wintry state.
I then boarded a bus and saw a familiar face, who I would then meet time and time again in Budapest.
On arrival to Budapest, I actually remembered to look up directions to my hostel, and had a fully charged phone, and maps in hand. See, I am getting better!
Let me tell you something, when I buzzed into the apartment block of which was supposedly my hostel, I freaked out. It was not touristy in the slightest, local families where walking everywhere,and it was just a run down apartment block. Did I accidentally answer an add to be kidnapped or book a hostel? Slave trade?
I was about two seconds from turning around and walking around Budapest to find another hostel, when an American girl walked past me and I asked her if I was in the right place. She happily replied ‘yes’ and with that, I felt reassured that no, I wasn’t going to be sold off to a far away land and miss my flight back to Paris and so on. Crisis averted.
The people were very nice, however, I am still a tad iffy about the neighborhood. I skyped my mother and fell asleep like a little chicken.
Tune in next week to see whether or not I get shipped off to the north pole or explore Budapest… Spoiler alert: I am writing this, so I am not currently chained up like a dog in a ditch in Botswana.
“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
So this was a hectic week. I will first start by saying that this weeks blog carries on from last weeks. Now that I type that I feel a little silly, of course it does. Barcelona, Paris, to Amsterdayyyyym (son) and Berlin. Anyway, enjoy?
3am start and I was so excited for Barcelona (to leave Porto was sad though). I packed up my stuff and raced down stairs to check out.
As for Pilot hostel, I would 10/10 recommend you stay there if you want to have a good time. The hostel organised a airport shuttle bus to get us there on time, which was 9e each. We boarded our flight and I think that the Portuguese sandwich from the day before had made my tummy go bad. But Caro had it a lot worse, she looked like her stomach was possessed by Satan for most of the day, I merely just had a food baby for most of the day. I called it Miranda Kerr.
We arrived in Barcelona maybe two hours later, after the people at the help desk, who, by the way, were extremely helpful and lovely to us, even though we do not speak Spanish or Catalan.
We found the hostel but, unfortunately could not check in. Caro was feeling like death, so she had a rest while I went on a little adventure and found some lunch.
I found this delicious bakery, and had a BLT with goats cheese for 3e. I then walked around. Near our hostel, the Black Swan (I also recommend this hostel, very central, helpful, good facilities and activities), is one a the biggest monuments, the Arc de Triomf.
A big red brick construction, with endless parks beyond. It was lovely just to wander around and eat a sandwhich. Street artists and acrobats were everywhere, and doing quite amazing things. Also, while it was a lot colder than Porto, the sun was still out at this point. I went back to the Hostel to find Caro had improved somewhat. So we went for a wander together, through the winding streets. Looking at the ornate and densely populated buildings, with Christmas decorations spanning as far as I could see. I love European Christmas decorations.
We went back to the hostel to finally check in, formally, and Caro went to bed. So I went on another journey just walking around the streets. I had a long cafe ou leche (Guess who doesn’t speak Spanish? Moi!), and did what every tourist should do, people watch. I find this the best way to soak in what the city really is, by going to an obscure-ish cafe and sitting, quietly watching the world go by, people interact and have cultural customs play out in from of you. Not stalking, I am not weird.
Ensuite, I accidentally found myself at the Palau de la Musica Catalana. A building of which was designed by a famous architect, Guadi. Very Barcelona, with the curvy columns and intricate mosaic facades.
Quirky little windows and lots of shapes and designs interacting with each other. Fascinating to look at.
I went to the local store to buy some things for dinner, as the hostel had a great kitchen, and Caro was still sick. The famous university-student-meal of pasta and sauce, avec du fromage. Whilst at the table, we met one other American, a Canadian and A Kiwi.
Australian and New Zealander accents are different. And that is all I will say on that topic.
We then mustered some energy and went for a walk through the old town of Barcelona.
A quick tip, Barcelona is very expensive in the way of tourism. Hostels, and food are relatively well priced, but buildings, museums and the Sangrada Familia are VERY expensive (for university students anyway). However, on Sundays museums are free (most museums anyway, just look on their sites for more information) and tickets for tourist attractions and museums are cheaper and easier to get online, just print them off and you can avoid the long lines of people waiting to buy a ticket.
Most of these places in Barcelona (I found out the hard way) only sell a limited amount of tickets a day, both online and at the ticket booths, so book and pay online and your life will be so much easier. Our hostel printed all our tickets for no charge.
I had the best sleep. the bed was shit, and we were in a room with 13 other people, but I slept like a baby for a full 9 hours. Bliss. I woke up and had a shower. lLets talk about hostel showers. They are small. I am big. The shower turns off every 15 seconds. I was getting dressed in the shower cubicle and accidentally tapped the edge of the tap, and the shower turned on. I was soaked. Luckily I packed 8 outfits, oh wait, I didn’t…
So after that debacle, I went down stairs and had some breakfast. The hostel has tour guides who come around every morning at 10h00 to pick up people for the free* walking tours.
*By free they mean that there is no set price, they will just give you a guide as to what you should pay. I give them 5e, because that is the first number they say. #freenotfree
We went on the Guadi tour, which took us all around Barcelona to four major architectural spots that showcase the work of the renown Catalan architect, Antoni Guadi. Our tour guide was very friendly and full of information about the man and his life, and buildings. She also explained a little about what was happening politically at the time in Barcelona and Spain in general, and the symbolism in Guadi’s work.
Notably, he is the architect of the Sangrada Familiar. An unfinished church in Barcelona, which is now a major tourist spot. I personally, don’t like the Sangrada Familiar, I will go see it when it is finished.
After the tour, we went to a little restaurant in the area and had a really lovely lunch at Lizarran. Decent price for great food.
One of Guadi’s major works resides in Park Guell, it is a bit of a hike outside of the city. So we hoped on the train and got off at the wrong stop, and because Caro wasn’t feeling to well we made the long trek back to the hostel.
We decided to have a rest and I would do some homework and figure out where to go next. I decided we really needed to go to the Park Guell. However, Caro didn’t wake up in time, so I went to the Picasso Museum instead. It cost me 7e as a student in the EU, which is pretty good for Barcelona. I then went for some walks around the Gothic area and went into this great cathedral I had been eyeing off the other night. It was huge and ornate on the inside, and time had taken its toll, however the gold and stained-glass stood out amoung the stone and blackened walls. After, I got lost in their quirky markets, in the narrow streets.
I returned to the hostel at around 7pm, checked on Caro, and we went downstairs to the Paella cooking class that was happening in our hostel! This, handsome, guy gave us step by step instructions to create a chicken and chorizo paella. And it tasted like Spanish heaven. It made my tummy so happy.
So after dinner, which was scrumptious, we made our way to a Flamenco night at a bar in the Gracia district. It was one of the smallest, quirkiest (without trying) bars I have been too.
People congregated on bar stools, the floor, huddled up in each other’s arms. We were lucky enough to get a bar stool right in front of the action, and it was intense. A few songs of traditional Catalan music (which just sounds like a mix of Portuguese/Spanish music), and then the Dancer would stand up, and with eyes like razor blades, she would cut through the room. So intense. When her gaze hit you, you immediately wanted to run. Fierce as.
At around midnight we got back to the hostel, and I was exhausted after a day on my feet.
I accidentally slept in until 9h30, so I had to quickly shower, pack my stuff up and strip my bed to check out of the hostel. However, they let us keep our stuff there for no charge. I had a hasty breakfast and we were then picked up by the tour guide for the Gothic Tour of Barcelona. Now. This guy, had been smoking a joint (naughty boi) before he came to our hostel. He was insane. Funny, and explosive (in a fun way), but by the end of the our I got completely sick of it.
He showed us where Pablo Picasso went to school. Bit of a tragic story there, as Picasso’s sister died, he became obviously traumatized, so his father took him to Barcelona to go into the best art school there was, and it still stands today. Then we went and touched the oldest building in Barcelona, which is around two thousand years old. This building was apart of the wall that once surrounded the city.
Cathedrals, more famous people, and a few fun facts about nightlife in Barcelona and living there were also on the agenda. We found out that most tour guides (who are not locals) tend to be illegals just living on the down-low until they can be naturalized. It takes three years to become naturalized in Spain, and for this guy, who is from the States, it just meant that he cannot get subsidies, or a real job, or travel outside of the country. But he seemed to be having a blast.
We had a nice little lunch of Pizza and a Catalan chocolate drink.
Afterwards we trekked to Park Guell. If you go there, get off at Vallcarca, but don’t try and go home that way, leave Park well from the front entrance in front of the monuments, and it is all down hill. But it’s a little over 1km to the station.
The walk from Vallcarca was still full on, there are escalators for most of the way, as it is quite a steep hill, but you do have to do a little bit of the climbing yourself, I started to get a bit puffed, and I thought Caroline was going to die behind me. Poor soul.
The gardens are free, and there are acres of landscaped, and also untamed gardens with sculptures, and intricately ‘Guadi’ designed walk-ways that you can visit. For 7e, you can visit the Monument zone, which has the houses that Guadi designed which are on display, as well at the gardens and the famous mozaic-curvy-seat that wraps around the top of the look out overlooking the city of Barcelona. Gorgeous.
After the Park we went back to the hostel, collected our stuff and went to the airport. I had the whole row of seats to myself on the plane! So I had a nice little nap, like 30 minutes. Then we caught the BEAUVAIS-PARIS bus back home.
I got up and washed my clothes, because I was barely going to be in Paris for more than 22 hours, and then went to uni to study, print off stuff, see people, prepare my body for the destruction what the French exam was going to bring, etc. Also I had a cheeky raclette sandwich for lunch.
The exam was. O.K.
Afterwards I went home and packed my bag, had a two hour nap and at 22h30 I went to the tram stations to get to my Flixbus by midnight. I arrived JUST in time. The bus terminal at Porte Maillot, where I go to catch buses, was closed, as it was under construction. There were tiny little signs directing me to the temporary terminal, but I got lost, and with the help of another student, we eventually found our way.
The bus arrived at 5h00! two hours earlier than it was supposed to. Not even going to ask how. Anyway, it was pitch black in Amsterdam, the only like coming from the dull street lamp. I looked at my map on my phone (of which I had screenshot-ed, because I had no internet) and it said I just had to go one stop on the metro towards the city. Easy right? Wrong, the machine wouldn’t change to English because the button was broken, so I prayed to baby Jesus and picked a ticket.
Alas, I got on the train, which takes you from city to City in Holland. Oops. Thankfully realized this early and got out at Amsterdam Centraal. SO, I went back to the station I came from, figured out that the level above was the metro and finally went the the right stop. Now, I had the problem of navigating with not a single soul around to get to the Hostel from the metro. Christ almighty. Not to mention how UNdelightfully freezing it was.
I just walked around for about an hour, even though the hostel was a solid five minute walk from the station. Yet, after being on a bus for so long sitting down, the exercise was nice.
I finally made it, and sat in the warm, as it was around 5 degrees at this point. Beny arrived ten minutes after, so we freshened ourselves up ( as much as we could, as we still could not check in), and went into town. The historical part.
Walking around, Amsterdam is just stunning, the intricate system of rivers, bridges, and old-thin houses lining the sides of the canals. Just beautiful. I have to admit, I am not really there for the pot *makes hand gesture*. So there are no stories about how I got ridiculously stoned and managed to urinate on my own head or something. Honestly. I just love history, and Amsterdam has so much of that. This city has been through a lot!
Our first task was to find somewhere to sit down for Breakfast, as we were both pretty hungry and freezing. I think that Beny was a little more used-too the climate than I was, especially as I came from Barcelona 24 hours beforehand. It took us a little while to find a place, and a lot of walking around, but this city is just beautiful.
Anyway, we found this little cafe, and just ate some house ciabatta with Dutch cheese, and I needed a coffee. The cafe sat in such a pleasant place, and was warm, as we looked out over the canals, and watched the streets start to thicken with people.
Bikes. Oh my gosh, bikes! Minimal cars, everyone has a bike. It is amazing, I would see a man carrying two primary school aged children on their bike, with more things in the carry basket at the front. But, our tour guide later told us that there is apparently a system, which is “stay out of their F*@#ing way“.
We really had no idea what to do, and again, as students away from Paris, where everything is pretty much free for us, our budget started t look sad. So I looked up things that are interesting, but not touristy. Obviously, we had to endure some touristy things, but I was more interested in Amsterdam’s history rather than the excitement of its relaxed rules.
So we found a “free” walking tour of the city. Now, again, free doesn’t mean ‘free’. It means that they want you to go on the tour, and then pay what you think afterwards, no these tours are always the best, because they are trying their hardest to please you, so that you feel obliged to pay more. So, in a way it is a good thing, but make sure you have a few five’s and ten’s, instead of 20’s, so that you don’t have to ask the guide to change a 50e note for you. These Sandeman’s/360/Gnine tours happen all over Europe, and they are made up of ‘freelance’ tour guides.
At 11h20 we started the walking tour of Amsterdam, our guide, Robbert, a local himself, was one of the best tour guides I have had. The tour took around 3 and a half hours, and I am not even going to try to explain what we did, there was so much information, and so many places that we saw, anything from the Anne Frank house, as he told us her story, and some history behind the publishing of the diary, to the smallest house in Amsterdam (or the world?), to walking through the Red-Light District. I highly recommend the walking tours, even though they still cost a little, they are more engaging, and the tour guides are more interested in showing you the place.
Afterwards, Beny and I went to the Mankkekan Pis, Amsterdam’s famous frite-maker. They were delicious, however I regretted eating them afterwards. I NEED FRUIT. Cannot find fruit here. We sat on the side of the canal and ate our frites, and looked at where to go next, as were starting to get tired.
A little known tourist place is the Amsterdam National Archives. An amazing place, it used to be a bank, and has now been refurbished to hold and display some interesting photos, facts, and documents that add weight to some Amsterdam/Holland’s (at times) sad and crazy history.
Inside the vault, you walk through the big safe doors, and into this ornate (reminded me of a more subtle version of Gatsby) two story room. And a second room in the vault had a cinema, where we watched the historical and a little disturbing footage of the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam.
Beny and I were slowly falling asleep in the comfy chairs, so we left for the hostel to check in finally and have an HOUR nap.
The festival was no where near as big as I thought it would be. I genuinely thought a lot more buildings, bridges and things in general would be lit up. However, it was a nice way to walk around the city center and discover Amsterdam in a different way.
Afterwards we went and found a burger place. Pulled pork for dinner, and my tummy was satisfied with the choices I had made. We made the long trek back to the most boring hostel I have ever been too. If you are going to Amsterdam, pay a little extra and stay at a youth hostel closer to the city center, not at WOW Amsterdam, as it was just filled with families with little kids, and had nothing interesting planned.
So we had a good sleep-in. I got up and went to the plainest breakfast on earth, but there was a nice range of Dutch cheese to choose from, so bread, cheese and coffee again for breakfast.
After doing a small amount of homework at breakfast I went back upstairs to find out that a man had followed me upstairs to my room.
“Put some shoes on!” I had been followed by one of the Hostel’s receptionists who wanted to discretely tell me that I needed to wear shoes at all times. But then he heard my accent and asked where I was from, to which he replied with, ‘I am from the Commonwealth as well!’ For the whole time I have been on exchange, no one has related to where I come from with the Commonwealth. Ha! I have no idea what country he is from, just that he lives somewhere in the Commonwealth. We had a little chat about the going on’s in politics (as you do), and this was the only interesting interaction I had at the hostel.
We checked out and went into town. Our first point of call was the North Markets, which had been recommend by the tour guide the previous day. They were FABULOUS! So much to look at, taste and buy. I bough a pair of gloves, because my little fingers where frozen to the core. I got the finger-less gloves that had the little cover than comes over the top to make mittens.
In the markets we found a guy making fresh Stoopwafel, which is like a really, really thin waffle with cinnamon that is cut in half and caramel is layered in between the two slices. I had nutella though, because I am a nutella addict and I hate caramel.
It was so sweet that I didn’t finish it, but the Dutch have so many sweet things on offer.
After we walked to a ‘coffee shop’, which basically is a colloquial term for ‘where to buy the weeds’. I’m hip. I’m hop.
We walked into this place called Serbie, very up-market looked place. Now you have to realize, Cannabis is not totally legal in Amsterdam, its more or less, just pushed to the side… On tax it is listed as ‘other forms of income’, so basically they don’t care, but if your being annoying to the police, they could nab you. The whole café was in a ploom of smoke, I looked like a fish out of water, just standing there.
Afterwards we went to Amsteram Centraal, yes spelt with 2 A’s. I am not crazy. We caught a boat from there, which is free, as it basically carts people across the main river to the other side of Amsterdam. We ended up going to the EYE museum, which I highly recommend also, as it is free, and there are not many people there, because it is a bit out of the way compared to the other museums. In the collection, it holds great clips from historical and famous movies, documentaries, and the old camera equipment used.
We ended up watching ‘West Side Story’, I applaud Beny for sitting though the whole film, and enjoying it (I think?).
After that we went and got something to eat before going back to the hostel, as it was around 5:30pm and I had a bus to catch to Berlin at 7:30pm. It was so cold and wet outside, the weather had turned from OK in the morning, to edging on a storm.
Said goodbye to Beny and left for the bus.
When I got to the bus, only 10 people got on, so it was roomy, however, for the first time ever, Flixbus wouldn’t allow me to take on my carry-on bag, therefore I couldn’t charge my phone, study on my laptop or anything, so I proceeded to act like a child when they talked to me, aka, crossed my arms and looked out the window and ignored them. I was so tired and upset.
Because I wasn’t allowed to have my bag, I couldn’t charge anything, so my phone ran flat. hence, the journey from the bus station to the metro to the hostel was interesting. I can proudly say, that I navigated my way without the use of technology, just pure paper maps. Took me an hour, but I got there.
The hostel let me check in super early because the bed was empty! So I had a shower and then went downstairs and had a lovely breakfast looking out over some abandoned buildings of which were covered in graffiti. SO much to look at. Afterwards I went into Brandenburger Tor, which is one of the remaining gates to the City of Berlin. The actual city of Berlin is only 800 years old, which in the scheme of things is quite young.
After a bit of waking around and getting my bearings, I recommend a day metro ticket (access to all modes of transport for 6.80e), I attended a 3 hour tour of the town. The tour guide was Australian, from Melbourne (aren’t they all?), and she had a very thick Australian accent, especially for living overseas for so long. Anyway the tour was amazing, yet again. All hostels you go to in major cities around the world should have pamphlets on ‘free’ tours (not free, liars, bastards) that operate a few times every day of the week.
She also had the same Paton Red Dr Martins as I do, except hers didn’t look like she had accidentally run over them with a lawnmower.
So the weather was awful. I literally nearly gave-up and went back to the hostel. I just can’t do this cold weather. and when it rained, it pierce your skin.
We went all over the city, and the kind of information she had stored away in her head was amazing. She had dates square on, to the month and day. I always forget the exact day of things in the WWI and WWII. So we started at the Brandenbuger Tor, which was convenient for me, and then we went around to the Jewish memorial, which has a free museum commemorating the murdered Jews in the WWII. Unfortunately for me, it has been closed down due to ‘technical difficulties’.
The photo with the statue depicts the silhouette of a man, Johann Georg Elser, who committed treason, as he attempted to murder Hitler. He tried to use bombs, as Hitler apparently used to talk for an hour or so, the bombs had been timed, however, Hitler ended his speech early that day and left the building, the bomb went off killing around 13 Nazi’s. The man was caught, sent to concentration camps and later executed for this deed.
I also visited the Berlin wall, well the remnants of that. there are bits and pieces all around Berlin, some are in their original place, and some pieces of the wall are on exhibition, covered in street art, not graffiti, street art. In the image, beyond that wall there are exposed bunkers that the SS used to interrogate and also torture people. Isn’t is weird how people are killed for their beliefs? What a silly concept that couldn’t ever possibly happen in today’s era…
I studied the World War’s all through primary and High-school, but it just doesn’t seem real until you are confronted by the fact that you are standing where Hitler was burnt just after his suicide, the bunker still exists, however, the German government is worried that opening it to the public may encourage a sort of pilgrimage from Neo-Nazis, which are a very real risk. But the bunker was/is a enormous underground building.
I went and found a sneaky Bratwurst in bread at the Christmas markets, and the just found myself walking from Market to Market. Over 60 Christmas markets are being held in Berlin at the moment.
I spent the rest of the evening walking around and I eventually just had a Camembert bretzel with chives for dinner. Sorry for this being so long, I left quite a few things out. Until next time to carry on with the last day of Berlin;
The final week of class, the lead-up to exams, and the beginning of another adventure in Europe. I will try not to babble. Too much anyway…
Started my last intensive ever at IESEG. International Marketing, which, wait for it, the professor is from Australia. And to start the class off swimmingly, she struck up a conversation with me about where I was from and where I go to university in Australia. I told her that amazingly enough, the guy that is currently on exchange from IESEG at my home university lived in my old on campus unit! (true story actually) She replied to that with, “Why would anyone want to go to Wollongong, especially French students?” Bewildered and speechless, I pulled a few sentences together about the fast rate of success my home university has had. This did not impress her and she walked away. Needless to say, I do not think my marks will be very good for this class.
The class ended early anyway, which gave me time to eat and study for my two French language exams. First, Bien Pronouncer Français. I forgot so many things. Then the next exam, a listening test for my main French class. I had barely any idea what was going on. I can read and write so much better than I can speak and listen. What are French? What are English?
If you are going on exchange to a country that you would like to learn/develop the language for, e.g; me and French, go for at least a year. 5 months is nothing.
The intensive got off to a better start today, the teacher smiled at me, and looked at me every time she said ‘Australia’, which was a lot. Anyway, I am in a group with two Frenchmen, very lovely, and Dan, the Canadian Man. There is a lot of laughing.
Beny was supposed to meet us for lunch in the Marché de Noel, but he didn’t end up making it. So Dan and I ran to the stall which sold raclette and jambon sandwiches for 5e for all IESEG students. Now, that is value. The cheese is overwhelming and amazing. ahhhhhh Words cannot describe my love for raclette. 10/10 would reccommend you eat raclette sandy once in your life, and try to not become addicted.
Afterwards I went to an extended French language class, with one of my favourite teachers in Paris, Laure. We watched a movie and had traditional French sweets for our last class together, and the B1 kids joined our depleting A2 class. She also gave me a mug with IESEG inscribed on it as a thank you gift for being a part of a multicultural project with the local french kids.
I went home and started the final edits for a million presentations and reports due this week.
My Australian teacher actually had a human conversation with me, without completely dissing where I am from. We reminisced about city life, because Sydney is all we have in common. Ahhh, to be a rich bitch. Our group had to put our final presentation together, and it looked pretty sh-mick.
Caroline had a long day at school like us, so we (Caro, Dan and I) went to obtain our favourite 5e raclette sandwiches, and strolled through the markets.
I went back to uni to do some more work after, to find that my laptop had died, and I bought my charger, but not my Aus to Eur adapter! And I have not seen an Aussie for a while now, so I just went home to finish the pile of homework sitting on my floor.
I had been up since 4am that morning because I couldn’t sleep and that is the only problem with having a roommate, is that you have to adhere to their sleeping time-table, which is very hard sometimes.
Presentation day, exams, reports due. The works! I am just so exhausted from this week. Whilst I was excited for Porto and Barcelona, I was kinda of dreading the lack of sleep I was going to experience in the coming month.
In the afternoon I had the strangest interaction with a old lady on the tram. I basically just replied with a ‘oui’, or ‘je sais!’, moved my face a little and made strange noises, and we became best friends.
Also, the last chance to say goodbye to a lot of people. Verena, Mary (however we will meet again at the French exam) Beto and Luis, our beautiful Mexicans, I saw them for the last time, because we are all travelling but our paths will not cross again.. And the list really goes on. So strange to think that all of these people who have become so close, like brothers and sisters, and I will be not seeing them again, or for a very long time at least.
I set my alarm for 4am.
4am sharp I rose like Jesus on Easter and put the last few things in my bag. Checked that I had my mascara, passport and tickets and lept onto the tram/bus.
There are not many people on the tram at that time of day…
I had opted to take a bus to get to Beauvais airport, it is a VERY small airport, and all the budget lines use this one. It is also, 65kms out of Paris!! Caro took a Blablacar, but I didn’t want to take one alone, as I am a wuss. But for 15.80e I get a seat of a bus that drops me directly outside my terminal on time from Porte Maillot. The bus was a little crowded, but I also saw a couple of people from university on the bus. However, they were going to Roma.
So then I just played the waiting game in the smallest airport I have ever been too. When I got on the plane, I realised how RyanAir is so cheap, there is nothing on the plane. Essentials and that is all. So crazy. When the plane took off I felt like I was in a cattle, or stock in a toy plane.
Nevertheless, I got to Porto, and let me just say, how worth it, it truly is. the city is beautiful and I loved it. Caroline was meeting me there at around 4-ish, so i quickly changed and went to find some lunch in the nearby town square. I found this little cafe that had no tourists, but had a great smell coming from it. I realised it was because no one spot English in the store, but after a bit of pointing and giggling, I ordered a meal and it was very, very yummy. Especially because I hadn’t eaten anything since 4am that morning. But in the distance a busker played, and he had the most amazing voice to be doing classic rock covers. So I got an ice tea and sat there a little longer to listen. Portugal is just beautiful, even though you can tell that the level of poverty (like most European countries) is quite high, the colours and vibrancy of the buildings, coupled with the decorated streets, cobbled roads and ornate tiles lining the walls and interiors of most buildings. i love it. very beautiful. Anyway, then Caro arrived, and after finding some food for her and a quick look around we did in fact have a nap.
Oh my Lord, did I mention the extremely inexpensive desserts and food in general? With RyanAir doing 10e flights and hostels being 10e per night, if you are a student want to go somewhere amazing an delightful, go to Porto.
We decided to go on the Hostels pub crawl for the evenings activities. We stayed at PILOT hostel in a really central location. The staff were amazing and the party’s were great. On the first night we met so many people, a few British guys, a couple of Americans, and low and behold, two other Australians. From my university. And one of them, his home town is Wagga Wagga. Amazing. Here I am on the other side of the world and out of nowhere people from my home university and (nearish to) my home town pop out of the wood works.
Don’t put more than two Australians together in a different country, it’s a recipe for maddness, loudness and extreme bogan accents (side effects may be that you will consume about 8.7 times more alcohol than you would have normally – Take with caution).
It was a fabulous night and the next morning I felt as fresh as a butterfly. No really, I did.
So, after the sweetest breakfast of my life, an American girl and British guy from the night before decided to join Caro and I on our Porto adventures. These guys were feeling a bit rough, so the beautiful sun was hurting. On the way we found a vintage car show, well I will say vintage because they look old, but ‘cars’ are not in my area of expertise.
We jumped on the vintage tram and it took us half way to your destination, however our planing was not amazing.
We had lunch on the river, magnificent views, and for only 13e with a drink, which by Paris standards is a VERY cheap meal. We had the Portuguese delight; a sandwich of death.
It was the most horrible bread which a few different questionable meats inside, covered in a thick layer of plastic cheese, then doused with like tomato soup. So strange, I ate it, I tried it, never again. However the ginger beer I had was extremely refreshing, and complemented the sun that was showering down on us.
We then all walked at a leisurely pace along the river. again, magnificent views. I could not stop saying “this is beautiful”. Trust me, I am sure people got sick of it.
We took the vintage tram back to what we though was going to be the center, but was actually on the other side on a large hill to our hostel. that walk was very long and hard. But when we got back to the town center we indulged in a coffee and piece of cake, the others had gelato, I have a slice of red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and pistachios. Amazing. Have I said amazing yet?
Also, we went through their, kind of, shopping-mall-thing and people were singing Christmas carols, and there were also some men smashing out some crazy-good opera. SO much going on, the this city is ALIVE.
In the spirit of the Spanish (even though we were not in Spain, just everyone around us was either working, living or studying in Spain) we had a tiny nap. I woke up a bit earlier than everyone else and had a few cups of tea whilst I finished off some French language homework. What a dork.
Afterwards we went out to find somewhere to eat for dinner. We found this cute Italian place, with blankets and outside heaters. The pizzas were so scrumptious, and I had a lemonade and mint, hand squeezed, so refreshing.
We then went to buy a for smart drinks to take back to the hostel for the next eventual party. Caro and I were going to have a wine tasting, but in the end, I was too tired and not feeling so positive about waking up the next morning at 3am to catch our flight to Barcelona. So I said adue after a few rounds of Kings, and various drinking games and then called my Mum. Sobering news from home, so I went to bed and set my alarm.
Porto is one of the best places I have been too, with lots of colour and activities to do,
defiantly go to a hostel like Pilot, and enjoy meeting new people and just having a great time in general.
So that is my week in a nut shell. couldn’t write everything down or I would be here for a week alone.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
~Augustine of Hippo~
Tune in next week for the Barcelona travels and so on.
Exchange has taught me so much about French culture, France in general, but also myself, and the people around me. I am also learning and experiencing of the many people who are also on exchange. At my university alone, a large percentage (I forgot how much) of the university students are from abroad. I have made friends and acquaintances with people from more than 50 countries. This week I embraced (a little) an American tradition. Was it forced? Possibly, but it was great fun.
I did nothing of importance, however I finally went shopping and rescued my body from eating baguettes and pasta for the next week. I had a presentation in French with Beny and it was swell. Talking in french in front of the class is very frightening, especially when you don’t have notes on everything.
No school for cool kids. AKA, Pocket-rocket Lucy and I had a day of roaming and chicky-bocky burgers.
First we went through the Christmas markets at La Defense, which is located directly outside our university. There were a total of four people in the entire maze of beautifully decorated markets, so every time Lucy and I walked past a vendor, we were hassled in the funniest of ways. Except for one woman who was deeply angered when I didn’t taste her cheese. I know, I am such a bitch.
We then went into Champes Elysees for a gander and to go to Lucy’s favourite store in the entire world, La Durée, of whom sell France’s finest pastries, macrons, and desserts. It’s both an art form and delicious. I bought a Flan Vanille, and a pistache macron. Lucy got this intricate raspberry dessert, that was like a massive macron with rose-infused cream inside, with fresh raspberries, lychee and what not. It was incredible. However, as we were leaving the store, the security guard asked if I was Lucy’s Mum. After Lucy said no, and I stood there thinking I must have heard him incorrectly, he then insisted that I had to be Lucy’s Mum. I am not Lucy’s Mum, Lucy is older than me by like a month.
Afterwards we went to République, because it has been nearly two weeks since the attacks on Novembre 13. We felt the need to pay our respects. The memorial was amazing. the original monument is to celebrate France’s various republics (of which, they had a total of 5 republics), freedom, equality, and unity.
Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.
At the top of the monument, you could see the posters, and graffiti from the Charlie Hedbo Attacks with “Je suis Charlie“, and as you panned down the statue, flowers, flags, candles and various elements of grief cascaded down, like a avalanche of emotion. It was truly sad. I looked around to see all the news broadcasters all set up in the area, waiting. For what? We don’t know.
I felt a bit disgusted by what people do to each other, so we left for home. Lucy had a few things to sort out, and a group report needed my attention.
At 18h30 we hoped on the tram to meet up with Dave, Luis and Beto for a cheeky chicken burger and chippies at Sacre Coeur, you could say that last meal for Lucy in Paris (this year anyway).
At 06h00 I got up and put a beanie and a jacket over my pajamas and walked to Lucy’s house to hep her with some final cleaning out of food, and general ‘stuff’. She gave me the keys to her apartment and we said ‘see you later’ at the corner (we have the same land lords), because I will see her next year in the homeland for a cheeky slut drop and wine or two.
Then I hobbled of to class, of which I found out wasn’t on because I was the only person who turned up (a few people came late, but she had already given up), so I went home and slept. Then the mountain of paperwork begins for my return home, and trust me, this is just as annoying as the paperwork to gain entry into France. Christ almighty, next time I will just go to Tasmania for exchange. It’s overseas right?
Caro went to the shops to look for American goods for Thanksgiving, and I went back to school to do some much needed planning and the hard part of travelling, paying for things. SO here are my final plans…
I am going to Porto in Portugal (with my roommate), then onto Barcelona in Spain (Catalonia-depending on your political stance), then back to Paris for a French exam. Then I am going to Amsterdam for the international light festival and going through Berlin in Germany on the way back to Paris. I don’t know why I am listing the countries of these cities, they seem obvious to me, but I am going to say that not everyone is as sure(?).
After my last exam (eww, marketing, who organizes this? Do they hate me?)on the 15th of December I am going to Prague, then Vienna, then to Budapest (because who doesn’t want to go to Budapest after watching the Grand Budapest Hotel?), and then back to Paris for Christmas with some friends.
After Paris I am going to Dublin, then to Belfast for New Years, then to Liverpool by boat (why, I don’t know, in hindsight possibly not a good idea), then to Manchester were I have to pick up some Man. United merch for my baby brother, and finally landing in London for four days until my Flight back to Sydney on the 7th of January.
After waking up at a disgraceful hour, I hobbled off to my French class at 14h30. Afterwards, Caro and I went on a journey through time and space to find the American Food store somewhere n Bastille. We walked by the République Monument again, and since the last time I was there, many more people had added flowers, flags, candles… A man was walking around the monument with a Turkish flag in one hand and a French flag in the other. You could see that these crowds were mostly tourists. We realised that we had spent so much time just lost in the grief that will forever resonate in this area.
We ended up not going to the Food store, because we had a house meeting because there is SHIT EVERYWHERE. Even the walls had food slopped all over them. Disgusting.
After the meeting I made the quickest stir-fry in the west and gobbled it down like a crazy animal. Because Caro and I may have, perhaps been running late to a soiree that we organised. Oops.
Thursday marked an official American tradition, Thanksgiving. We are hosting a Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday with all our American, Mexican, Canadian, and Polish friends.
Anyway, we meet Dave at the metro and went off to Place Mongue. Where an abundance of Beer bars, Whiskey bars, bars, and restaurants sit. The streets are beautifully decorated with Christmas lights and various ornaments for the season. It was extremely picture-esk.
Anyway, I know nothing about Thanksgiving, so Caro with the help of Dan and Dave explained the tradition and certain things they must do on Thanksgiving, like get drunk. We got drunk. But this is one of the last times I will see these beautiful people, as more and more of us start travelling or leaving for realzz. Anyway, there was a boat of Europeans called the Mayflower, that went to America and the rest is history. So there is the significance of us going to a bar called the Mayflower on Thanksgiving.
We also meet Jofre, a guy from Catalonia living in France. Hey Jofre.
After the Mayflower, the bars lined the streets so we didn’t have a problem finding another one to go to. We eventually found this cute little bar packed with….Americans who were watching the NFL. Dan, with all his charm, yelled across to the table next to us “Who is American?”, and about ten people replied “yes”. At only 3.40e a beer, it was a littler easier to buy compared to the 6-8e beers we normally drink. Do be quite frank, I do like beer now, but beer tastes the same to me. Caro went inside and bought two beers and told me to taste each of them and chose, and I literally couldn’t have told you how each beer was different. The first one tasted like a branch and the second one tasted like tree bark?
No classes, so after some study, I cleaned the pig sty I call my room. Then, off to some Museums with Beny. L’Orangerie and Pompidou.
Beny and I first went to L’Orangerie, where some of Monet’s most famous works are. We walked into a room with his paintings bending with the curved walls. It was stunning. I took a horrible photo, but you get the idea, if you are in Paris, this is one of the smallest and best museums that I can recommend.
After Monet, we went downstairs to a temporary exhibition portraying women in the war, and photography by women in the 17th to 20th century. It was very interesting. Great museum.
Bearing the cold wind, we went to the center of Pompidou. Which is near Hotel de Ville. This is a beautiful area, and fortunately we had a great day in terms of sunshine and not pouring down rain. The sky was a perfect blue, with the faintness mist covering the Eiffel tower in the background. We saw the Pompidou museum and the line was way too long and we could not be bothered to wait. So, Beny and I walked around and found this beautiful little cathedral (are they ever little though?). We couldn’t figure out how to get in, so Beny asked this man in a random doorway, and he said “yes this is the way, come in”.
Then they offered us tea and coffee, and cakes and soup and whatnot. Beny read the pamphlet that this woman gave us, and found out that we had accidentally walked in on a pilgrimage. So now, we had the awkward problem of trying to get out of the church, a holding ground for all these people who had literally traveled from across the world to be there for a spiritual celebration for Climate Change.
After, we parted ways at the Metro, for Thanksgiving lunch/dinner was on Saturday. I needed to go shopping for the dishes I had proposed to make.
I bought a 5kg bag of potatoes, peeled and cut the whole bag up. It took a while, but was totally worth it.
Also, more news on the housemate front. Utter chaos. People didn’t come to house meetings, so then decide to be king turd the next day. The language barriers are becoming a massive problem. Not English to French, just all of our English-es and our standards. Mine and Caro’s hygiene standards seem to be a bit to high. Perhaps we should lower them and be happy about the utter big sty we live in.
Tune in next time for George-Street-Housemate-Fights…
I got up at 10h00 to start boiling these potatoes. 3kgs of tatties for mash potato, and 2kgs for roasted potatoes. I was very excited. However, for some reason our kitchen was extremely hot. I we were sweating. Plus I had my head in the oven most of the time, or I was mashing 3kgs of hot potato. Which is very hard with out the proper equipment. I also had to prep the corn with Beto, and the baked Camembert for starters. Caroline did a quick trip to the supermarket for Alcohol and a some chicken stock so that I could make some stuffing for the turkey.
Oh. Spoiler, Caroline couldn’t find a turkey, so we decided that chicken would be fine. And then we decided that why cook a chicken when you can buy an already cooked rotisserie chicken for the same price. So At around noon Caro went in search of a cooked chicken. We then found an oven dish, put the chicken in it, surrounded it with roasted potatoes and put it all in the oven.
We are naughty people.
Dave then turned up with abut a tonne of salad. He had filled 2 x 6 litre bags fully with salad. It was insane. Caroline and I will defiantly be eating salad on Sunday and Monday.
Beny turned up with bottles of wine, and mountains of cheese with a few baguettes. I had also bought some Grisinni, it is an Italian bread stick with infused olives. I love them.
Next I had to start making the gravy. Normally I would make gravy from the drippings of the roasted meat, but it was a bit hard in this case. We found some sachets of gravy-mix at the store. It was the only brown gravy they had, so it had to do.
Finally, an hour and a half after we had planned to start, Dan turned up, with 2 and a half dozen (or so) of deviled eggs. Now, deviled eggs are amazing. Go look up the Martha Stewart recipe (that’s what Dan followed) and they were amazing.
So our friendsgiving started, and I feel as though I should do this every ear from now on. It was a really nice way to spend an evening with friends. Love a good home cooked (kind of) meal.
Anyway, after a few games and some extensive cleaning we finished our meal and took on Caro’s home made Pumpkin pie. It was so good. My first ever Pumpkin pie, and it was perfect. We also had some apple tart, and played a few more games afterwards. Including, but not limited to categories and Frozen themed UNO.
We said farewell to our guests at around 23h30. I had a hot chocolate and we fell asleep extremely easily. Beny was 10/10 drunk and left everything behind. I didn’t have enough time to sell all of his glass wipes and gloves on eBay. Lucky.
So many exams on Monday, and I have a group report due in three days no where near finished, and I am going to Porto/Barcelona in 6 days and this and that. And, everything is coming to an end, but now the intensive travelling starts. Here is a nice quote to think about for Friendsgiving.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”