Monday, January 10, 2011

London: what a sweet ride

I am writing this to you from my new home - it's sassy, it's sunny, and yes, it's Sydney. Loyal readers, travellers and random blog visitors - I am pleased and yet a little sad to tell you that after five and a half years sampling the best of what one of the world's greatest cities has to offer, I have said goodbye to London and returned to Oz. The decision was not taken lightly, let me tell you, and many tears were shed. But, it was time to embark on a new adventure in my life - not one that perhaps involves as much fun, travel and eye-widening exhilarations as my overseas move but one that will involve, well, growing up a bit (not too much, mind). Getting married, saving for a house, confronting my HECS debt, wondering how to make up for five years lacking in superannuation contributions - yes it's all very boring but it's real life, and I have been avoiding it for long enough. And at least I have the memories, friends and life-changing moments from the past years to get me through it all. As my friends look on horrified as I tell them I came back with no savings, that I have (gasp) more that FOUR super accounts from teenage jobs, and that I have no idea what blue chip stocks are, I smile to myself and take comfort in all the memories that I have written about here on this blog (and all the other ones I didn't tell you). And, wait for the cliche, I wouldn't change it for the world. Professionally, I feel comfortable that my UK experience has put me in good stead, taught me countless skills and given me international perspective in my industry - an invaluable asset that all working travellers can take with them throughout their entire careers.

And London, well what I can say. I truly fell in love and I think I will always miss it like you do a long-lost friend. As a small tribute to my second home across the ocean, I will be posting some of my London, UK and Europe favourites over the next few weeks and months so other people can learn to love this amazing place as much as I did and learn to embrace London as a local does.

As I posted in one of my very first blogs on here 'Life is short and the world is wide' - so if you haven't already packed your suitcase, then there's no better time than now. Happy travels x

Monday, May 24, 2010

Highway 1: from San Francisco to LA

Yes, it's been a while. I'm still in London. Long story! Still loving it and travelling the world over - most recently we explored the delights of South Africa: Cape Town, Plettenberg Bay, and went on safari. Amazing. One of the most common things people ask me since I have lived and travelled over here is for recommendations (accomodation, restaurants, bars etc) for their own holidays - so I think I will try to be useful for more people and post some of my carefully compiled travel guides here! Below is a brief guide to some recommended stops along the gorgeous Highway 1 - from San Francisco to LA. I did this trip with my boyfriend (now fiance!) in 2007, and it was absolutely beautiful. Here is my quick guide to recommended stops after you have left San Fran (that's a whole separate travel guide!):

Santa Cruz
Probably the first place you’ll come to that you feel like stopping as it’s about an hour and a half out of San Fran – it’s got an ok beach, with a full-on American style amusement park on the sand and a jetty with shops and stuff. We stopped here for a drink on the beach but I didn’t think it was that amazing.

OK to drive through but kind of reminds me of Central Coast in Australia so I don’t think you are missing out on much if you just skip this – apparently the aquarium is quite good though if you're into that kind of thing. Also good for watersports from what I have heard.

Big Sur
Beautiful but it's almost too close to San Fran to stop for the night (if you're only taking 2 nights to do the whole drive). One place we really wanted to stay but couldn't because there is a minimum of 2 nights usually are these luxury eco-friendly yurts called Treebones Resort. You should check them out - they look sensational. I was so gutted we couldn't stay there - one day! (we could see them on the hill when we drove past as they sit temptingly on the precipice of the cliff).

Pebble Beach/Carmel
These places are beautiful to drive through and stopover (world-famous golf courses at Pebble Beach and seal watching). Carmel is a cute, affluent town (we spent our first night here in a beautiful little BnB that I can't remember the name of). Kind of old-lady shops from what I remember but some cute little cafes/bars serving amazing seafood/tex mex and a nice main street.

Hearst Castle (about half way between LA and San Fran) is a really fun stop - it sounds hideously cheesy but it's basically this giant castle/mansion that was built by the publishing magnate William Hurst and is heavily influenced by European architecture (in a 'ranch' setting) with a crazy collection of art, antiques, animals, sculptures etc from Hearsts travels. He used to host massive parties attended by old Hollywood elite like Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe etc etc. The views are amazing and it's worth seeing and doing the tour. Check it out.

Elephant seals
Just before you get to Hearst Castle you should stop just south of Point Piedras Blancas as there is a huge colony of elephant seals and they're fun to watch for a while! :)

San Luis Obispo
Definitely one of the better stops. If you can, try and stopover here on a Thursday night as they have a big farmer's market where they close the main street and have a big party with food stalls, live music etc. The food is amazing - more BBQ'd ribs than I have ever seen with all the trimmings - Stu will wet himself. There are also good shops and some really nice restaurants/bars/wine-tasting places. Check it out.

Santa Barbara
About an hour and a half before you get to LA. We stayed here overnight but if you’ve only got 2 nights, I think Carmel and San Luis Obispo are better options (although quieter so it depends what you’re after and your timing). Again we just stayed in a motel place that we drove up to and asked about availability but I would recommend booking somewhere if you stayed here as it took us a few places to find somewhere and that was in September. It’s very beachy, very much like an upmarket beach town in Australia with lots of shopping, bars, restaurants etc.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

And then came October

So I said I might get better at updating this but it's now the end of October and my post-rate is definitely not getting any higher! Have said some sad farewells to friends in the past couple of months (one of the downsides of staying here so long is that there are a lot of people that come and go!) but there's been some good news too - after parting with my passport (and £500) for four months, I've finally got a new visa and the Home Office is kindly letting me stay for another two years. I've become an even greater expert on all things UK-visa related - I could probably start charging for my services really as I know I'd be a lot more useful than some of the joke visa agencies out there who don't have time for quality customer service (ahem, Global Visas). The best news, however, is that I'm heading home for a month's holiday in a matter of weeks! The clocks have just gone back here and it's getting dark at 5pm, so I'm looking forward to some long warm nights in sunny Sydney. And copious amounts of prawns and Sauvignon Blanc of course (nb: tasted some quality drops at the London Wine Show in Islington last Friday - paid for with an evil hangover). Must figure out how to survive for four weeks without Salt & Vinegar Snackajacks, however - could be problematic.

Since I've been passportless until now, the most exciting 'travel' pics I have to show are from Leeds - no sighs of disappointment, please. It's actually not too bad (for a night) - I recommend getting out of town though and visiting the lovely little spa town of Harrogate (also famous as a hideout of Agatha Christie). We had beautiful weather - as you'll see from this brilliant English wintry sky in this pic (above right) taken in the the Grade II listed Harrogate gardens.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Yes I'm still alive...

Hmmm, almost a year later I'm posting a little bit of an update for you all. I do miss writing on my little blog - I don't know where all that time went really!

So, drumroll... yes I am still in London. Just can't seem to shake this city - not that I want to just yet! Since September last year (last time I wrote, oops!) I went home to Australia for Christmas and New Years which was good fun, and then came back to continue my publishing job in London, where I have been for almost two years now.

I haven't been able to travel much this year unfortunately since I had to put a sweet £500 aside for a new visa application - but managed to spend an unbelievable two weeks in the US: discovering my mecca, New York, and other fab places Chicago and, randomly, Orlando. Also went to Lisbon (very highly recommended for a short trip) plus have been exploring some of the UK's own wonders - Manchester (yes, really) and Cornwall and my own backyard in London. After four years over here, and travel to literally dozens of countries, I have lost a little of (or satiated?) my wanderlust and this year I have been content to relax over the summer in my home, London. Today is a typical sunny summer day - one of the types of days that makes living through the winter here all the worth while. Everyone is out on the Commons sipping pints - I will be joining them very shortly! Just recovering from whipping Paul at tennis this morning.

Some of the things I have been up in the past couple of weeks:

And that's about it for now. Stay tuned as I might just get better at doing this again...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

London tube turmoils

Even after living here for three years, I still tend to have little to no idea where most London tube stations are geographically located (that's probably due more to my complete lack of any sense direction rather than anything else). Never trust the TFL tube map though - the stations may look miles apart on the map, but they're probably a 5 minute walk or short bus ride (much better than traipsing up and down escalators and cramming into another unnecessary train). Check out the suprisingly useful Geographically Correct London Tube Map.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Vale Sally

To All of You Who Ever -
threw a ball for me,
dropped a sausage at a bbq,
left your beer around for me to clean up,
didn't push me off your bed,
gave me your toast crusts
let me slobber on you,
rubbed my ears,
scratched my back
and generally just liked having me around
I said Goodbye, peacefully to Brian and Nola at home, at 4.10pm. on Tuesday August 20th 2008
I've gone to chase balls in heaven!


Monday, August 25, 2008

Three years today

So, it's been three years! (and quite a long time since I posted on here as well!). It's the August long weekend - one of the biggest summer weekends in the UK. Most people are off on summer holidays, some are here enjoying the loads of festivals and events that are on. I haven't gone anywhere - but it's my three year anniversary of the date I moved to the UK today. And what a huge three years it's been. I still can't believe it's that long since i trotted wide-eyed out of Heathrow, thinking I would only be here for three months (hmm, got that a little wrong didn't i!). I still feel like a tourist really - living over here is so exciting and exhilarating, there is always something new around the corner, that you never ever really get bored. And if you do, there's nothing stopping you from planning the next big adventure.

Three years comes at a price though. And these past two weeks has been especially hard to be away from friends and family. But I'm going to see them all for almost four weeks at Christmas, and living in another country for this long means you develop new support networks and loving friends who can make the more difficult things in life more bearable. But still looking forward to some prawns and crisp, cold Chardonnay with my mum, dad, brothers, sister and family at christmas, and some bubbles with friends on the harbour in January. Having the best of both worlds can get tough! :) Happy anniversay to me xxx