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Australia 2013

Sydney Opera House

I know I said I don’t have much time to blog any more but I wanted to do this post because it’s about one of those life experiences that you can often only dream of doing. For me that’s what Australia was up until about two months ago.

I love travelling but I’ve never really had the funds to do it. Since school I had a list of countries I wanted to go to but the more out into the ‘real world’ I got the shorter that list became. Australia disappeared from the list pretty quickly. It’s one of the furthest distances you could ever travel from the UK and the cost of the flights alone is enough to put you off.

Out of the blue in August my boyfriend was asked to go there for work. It was a three month outing and I knew it would be a long time apart so straight away we started looking into the possibility of me joining him out there. A slight problem was that I was just about to start a new job so that idea was put on hold. A little bit of time passed before I suddenly came to the conclusion WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING!? I have an opportunity to go to Australia, accommodation is sorted and it’s a once in the lifetime opportunity. That night I booked my flight tickets and the journey began…

Come fly with me

I’ve been on a long haul flight before. When I was 12 I went to Florida with my family. The flight was eight hours. For this journey one of my flights was eight hours. The London to Singapore flight was 12 hours. The Singapore to Sydney flight was eight hours. The Sydney to Canberra (where we were staying) was roughly 45 minutes. That plus stopping time led to the grand total of 25 hours. I felt like I was living in the air.

I left on Wednesday 23 October at 7pm and arrived on Friday 25 October around 7am. They were night flights so I felt I could just sleep the whole way. Wrong. I did get some sleep but it was interrupted by turbulence, mass toilet breaks and food. I don’t think I got more than about four hours altogether. When I did finally make it to Canberra I had another problem. My bags didn’t make it. The connection time between the Sydney flight and Canberra flight had been so tight I had ran through the airport to make it and I had a funny feeling my baggage wasn’t going to do the same. Luckily it arrived on a later flight that day.

Jet lag won’t stop me now

A 10 hour time difference can play havoc with your brain. When I arrived in Canberra I felt unusually awake but my main fear was doing nothing for too long and falling asleep. Once the tiredness comes it’s hard to get rid of it. So from day one I set my self a plan to not go to bed before a certain time and not get out of bed before a certain time. This meant forcing myself back to sleep at odd hours of the morning. In between I would do as much as possible to keep myself active, possibly tiring myself out in the process but I also did a lot in those first few days making my overall stay seem a lot longer.

On day one I got a better picture my surroundings. I was staying in an apartment block outside of Canberra city centre. It was gorgeous and the fact that the weather was so good made it even better. We went for a stroll and came across a sculpture garden by chance which had a much smaller version of the Angel of North in the UK. I have seen Australia’s Angel of the North before I have seen the one in England.

Black Mountain Tower

Black Mountain Tower

Afterwards we jumped in the car and headed up Black Mountain to see the telecommunication tower where you can pay to go up the top. The wind definitely woke me up and we got some great views of Canberra. Then we got back in the car and headed for the next mountain. This is when I fell asleep. That was a failed mission but in a last attempt to keep me awake before it got dark we headed to a park where Tom had seen wild kangaroos. I had to wake up to keep a look out and when we saw them it was worth it. There was a small group and we tried not to disturb them. A couple jumped away which was also brilliant to see.

Wild kangaroos

Tidbinbilla

We had acquired some tourist leaflets from the visit to Black Mountain Tower. One of them was for Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Shortly before I came to Australia there had been huge wildfires, particularly around Sydney. Unfortunately it seemed some areas in the reserve had been affected too because parts were closed off but we still had a choice of trails to do. Naturally we choose the one with the most animals.

Terrapin

Terrapin

We got to see terrapins, some very angry Cockatoos, one my favourite birds the Kookaburra, plenty of lizards and a glimpse of a platypus.

Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex

Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex

After the reserve we headed about two minutes down the road to the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex and saw some moon rock.

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Culture fix

On the third day it was time to get our culture fix. The first place we went to was the National Gallery of Australia and then we went to Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre. It had a lot of hands on activities to try including an earthquake machine you could sit in. There was also an air hockey game where you played against a robot. I thought I was good at air hockey but the robot always wins. After that the tiredness returned so we took up our culture fix again the next day by walking around the government buildings and going to Australia’s National Museum where we were asked to design our own futuristic houses (mine and Tom’s looked oddly similar). Then we walked around the centre of Canberra which has a massive shopping centre! Yes, that did indeed help with my culture fix.

To the beach!

It was time to get out of Canberra and head east to Batemans Bay. It was a three hour drive and as we were planning to head north to Sydney at some point we decided to book a beach hut for two days. The weather was in our favour and was getting warmer and warmer each day. When we arrived we checked into our hut and then headed to the nearby Birdland Animal Park. It was a very small zoo but it housed mainly native Australian animals like wallabies, kangaroos, emus and koalas. We also got to get up close and personal with a diamond back python and a very hyperactive wombat which I think is Tom’s new favourite animal.

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Koala

Koala!

Wombat

Tom rubbing the wombats belly

The next day was quite a hot day so we found a quiet beach and sunbathed. We did wear sun cream although we definitely missed a spot because when we returned to the hut we started getting uncomfortable. It wasn’t until the next day when we saw the full extent of our stupidity. We had completely missed the backs of our legs and they were glowing red. It was pure agony for the next few days.

Onwards to Sydney

Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

It was time to leave our beach retreat and head North along the coast.  It was a long drive but we managed to break it up by taking a detour to Jervis Bay. Jervis Bay is another nature reserve but is well known for it’s beaches which have some of the whitest sands in the world. We headed for the one right at the end where there were no people and it was like something out of a holiday brochure. I’d like to add here it was Halloween on this day and I spent it laid on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world with nothing to be scared of but more sunburn.

Tom having a swim

Tom having a swim

Sydney

We stayed in Sydney for two nights. When we arrived it was very late so we saved our energy for the sightseeing the next day.

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We caught a train to Sydney Harbour Bridge and walked across before reaching the harbour. It was another lovely day and the Opera House looked stunning. I’ve only ever seen pictures of the Opera House and the bridge on TV, particularly around New Year’s eve but to see it in person is something else.

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Right next to the Opera House are the Royal Botanical Gardens. We had lunch there and did some souvenir shopping. Then we took a ferry from the harbour to Manly. Got off the boat. Headed to the bar next to it. Had a beer. Got back on the ferry and went back to Sydney Harbour. Sounds silly but we took the ferry to get some great views of the harbour. The beer was a bonus.

Last day

We spent the next day driving back to Canberra which was a very long drive and we arrived back late evening.

The next day was my last so I did some last minute souvenir shopping and then we went to Canberra’s centre again for a goodbye meal. I was going back to England alone because Tom still had another month to go. We went to the Playground Martini and Tapas Bar  which served delicious food and amazing Martinis. The coconut flavoured one was a particular favourite.

Then it was time to go home. I left on the Monday and arrived Tuesday morning because of the time difference. My body has now officially recovered from jet lag and Tom will be back this Wednesday!

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Posted by on November 16, 2013 in Personal

 

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A weekend away

Tortworth Court House

If you’ve seen my last few posts you’ll know that my boyfriend Tom and I celebrated our two-year anniversary by doing something special.

Originally it was just going to be a nice meal at a local restaurant like last year but then Tom came up with the idea to do something a bit bigger. We booked a last-minute luxury package at Tortworth Court Four Pillars Hotel.

Our room

Tortworth Court is a four star Victorian country mansion hotel in South Gloucestershire, UK. A grade II* listed building, it has a very long and interesting history which includes links to royalty and ghost stories but after a disastrous fire in 1991 the house was left derelict for almost a decade. Then it was taken over and restored into a magnificent hotel complete with an impressive lobby, beautifully decorated dining hall, spacious bedrooms and a luxurious spa which includes a gym, pool, sauna and steam room. The picturesque grounds surrounding the hotel also boost a mature arboretum with 300 rare and protected trees.

Thanks to our package deal, when we entered our room we were greeted with a luxury hamper filled with goodies including two bottles of wine, nibbles and luxury bath treats. It was quite late when we arrived and people were already arriving for dinner. When Tom said people dressed for dinner he meant it. Women were arriving in cocktail dresses and the men were wearing suits. At least I packed the dress I wore for graduation last minute.

Luxury hamper

We arrived at Moreton’s Restaurant where we would be eating both dinners and one breakfast. The food was fantastic. There was Goat’s Cheese and Beetroot Salad, Trio of Salmon, King Prawns – and that’s just for starters. For dinner there was a choice of high quality roasts, sausages, and even pigeon which I just had to try. After building up the courage – thank you wine list – I tucked in and it was better than expected (it’s not like chicken). We finished with desserts which included English classics like bread and butter and sticky toffee. I even tried the dessert wine which was very sweet and very strong and if you don’t finish it with dessert then your stuck because it’s too expensive to waste.

On Saturday we took things slow. I pried Tom out of bed early to go to the breakfast buffet. Then we went for a morning walk around the grounds and arboretum and got into a habit of reading the tags on trees to find out what they were. We found trees like White Oaks, American Maple and a Monkey Puzzle Tree, to name a few.

The orangery

Then we went to the gym. I’ve not been to the gym in over a year since I left university and it is becoming noticeable. So we spent some time there, realised how depressingly unfit we were and then made our way to the pool. I convinced Tom to try the sauna and steam room but quickly realised they weren’t his thing. We were in there five minutes before he complained about being too hot and we returned to the pool. Where’s my sauna and steam room experts Gemma and Gillian when I need them!

On our last day we decided to eat breakfast in the orangery which, if you didn’t know, is an old-fashioned conservatory or green house. Then we waved goodbye.

Now that’s how you celebrate an anniversary.

Me walking around the grounds

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Personal

 

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Project 365: Day 263

On day 138 I posted a photo of the bridge closures that were affecting my neighbourhood. Four months on they’ve reopened. No more ghost town.

 

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in project 365

 

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Wish I was there

Me in Saint Petersburg, Russia, outside the Church of the Savior (2008, aged 17)

Just after my birthday I had one of those day dreams about my life goals. One of my goals has always been to travel and I’ve been quite lucky so far. I’ve been on quite a few school trips and my parents took me on holiday one a year as a child.

To travel is something a lot of people say they want to do but before they know it the time has passed. They have other responsibilities which restrict where they can go and for how long.

I’m not saying I want to go away for a whole year but there are places I want to go and sights I want to see. They range from places in the UK to islands on the other side of the world.

So far my travelling journey has taken me to four different continents (including Europe). I’ve waited out a blizzard in Russia, walked up a volcano in Malta, met Mickey Mouse in Florida, got stuck up the Eiffel tower in France, gone sea fishing in Ireland, eaten chocolate in Belgium, fallen off a banana boat in Tunisia and unfortunately, vomited at the foot of the sphinx after contracting stomach flu in Egypt.

Places I’ve been to so far:

  • Malta
  • France
  • Bulgaria
  • Portugal
  • Zante
  • Cyprus
  • Turkey
  • Kos
  • Crete
  • Corfu
  • Tenerife
  • Tunisia
  • Italy
  • Egypt
  • Russia
  • Germany
  • Belgium
  • Florida
  • Ireland
  • Wales

Making bubbles in Epcot, Florida (2002, aged 11)

I have also had my travelling set backs. Other than getting trapped over night in airports due to delays I’ve also never even made it to some destinations. In 2010 I had arranged to go to New York on a university trip only to have a certain volcano erupt around the same time. The whole trip was cancelled. Then there was India, a place I’ve wanted to go to since I was a child. A trip was held annually for students in the UK. Every year I applied for one of their limited placements and every year I failed to get the place.

But there is still so much more to see…

“Are you not entertained?” Me in the amphitheatre of El Djem, Tunisia (2007, aged 17)

I want to do the hula in Hawaii, celebrate the new year in Sydney, visit the breath-taking national park in Croatia, and walk in the footsteps of the stars in Hollywood.

Places I want to visit:

  • Hawaii
  • South Africa
  • Australia
  • New York
  • California
  • Mexico
  • India
  • Croatia

Hopefully I will reach these places and more during my life and have some special and crazy stories to tell.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Personal

 

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Pen y Fan: My first mountain

Mountain: Pen y Fan

Height: 886m

Location: Brecon Beacons National Park, South Wales

Being half Welsh, and more specifically half North Welsh, meant that it was difficult to avoid mountains at times. When I was little, when ever I was expected to walk up a hill or mountain I spent the majority of the time complaining and crying. I could not get my head around what kind of crazy person does this for enjoyment, particularly in Wales where there’s a 95% chance it’s raining and 99% chance it’s cold.

The start

Then I met Tom, one of the crazy people who do this for enjoyment. By this time though I’d been left to my own devices and was no longer forced to do anything. When I first told Tom I’d like to give his hobby a go he got very excited and took me out to spend all of my pay-day money on walking boots and a “special” coat.

On New Year’s day of this year, Tom and I took a little test walk up Cader Idris. We walked until it started to get dark and then came back down.

Then last weekend we went to South Wales and decided we’d try to walk up Pen y Fan, the tallest peak in South Wales. The day of the walk it was raining but luckily the heavy rain subsided as we parked and the majority of the walk was a mixture of sunshine and small showers, which were really welcome as we got very hot.

I hit “the wall” quickly as I haven’t done a lot of exercise recently but because I told myself it was too soon to quit I managed to push through it pretty easily. Both of us struggled in the last part but I was too determined to make it to the top.

Residents of Pen y Fan

First we got over the steep, stony climb of Corn Du, Pen y Fan’s twin peak. Then the sun came out as we got to the top of Pen y Fan and we had a nice rest, taking in the breath-taking view.

When we got to the bottom we treated ourselves to two large burgers which completely countered any calories we burned on the way up, but it was worth it. I’m still stiff from the walk but I felt so good and relaxed after doing this that I ended up sleeping the entire journey back home.

Managing to walk up Pen y Fan without any problems means I can take on even bigger mountains in future. Tom and I want to climb to the top of Cader Idris and Snowdon at some point. Pen y Fan was just the beginning of my new little hobby.

Tom striking a pose

Me on top of Corn Du

View from Pen y Fan

Me at Pen y Fan’s peak

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2012 in Personal

 

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Project 365: Day 138

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On the news last night they showed a small village where two bridges leading in and out had been shut by Network Rail for repairs at the same time. This means businesses are suffering and neighbours are feeling completely cut off.

If that wasn’t bad enough, they were supposed to reopen no later than July but this has now been changed to September.

I’m telling you this because I’m one of the people affected and it’s really annoying. The only road I can use is not a road built for the use of many motor vehicles, especially HGVs who are using it as their main route because they have no choice. That road is now facing serious disrepair and will need to be closed soon causing even longer journey times and diversions going off into the middle of nowhere.

If you want to see the report you can view it here at Angry Community ‘Cut Off’

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2012 in project 365

 

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