Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The dream is over but Oui Paree!
Three days later and still no-one is any closer to accepting that we got booted out of the World Cup because of a dodgy penalty! Oh well - we fought gallantly and I for one am very proud of our Aussie boys and I'm sure football has got it's healthiest dose ever of coverage back in Oz. It was still fantastic to watch them play and it gave all us expat Aussies a chance to proudly display our green and gold and drape flags over our living rooms. So thank you Socceroos! What a ride :)

I was in Paris for the weekend which was absolutely divine (and we managed to catch the game in Cafe Oz - an, obviously, Australian bar in the centre of Paris, just off Rue de Rivoli, complete with a crocodile eating a surfboard mounted on the wall - classy!). At first we didn't know how to find the Aussie bar, but while vaguely walking around we stumbled into an army dressed in green and gold, waving Australian flags and one guys wearing a Canberra Raiders jersey, probably having just stepped off a Contiki tour bus - and we were sorted.

But the weekend did not just revolve around the game. I went to Paris in the first place to catch up with my wonderful friend Kimberley (see pic from the game) and her boyfriend Stu who I have not seen since I left home. I caught them on the end of their whirlwind World Cup extravaganza through Germany - and they came complete with crazy stories and unforgettable memories from the land of beer and sausages (i wish I quit my job and went there for the entire month! - am going to be jealous about all these tales from all my friends who made the trip for months to come - at least I was there for a little while).

Anyways, it was lovely to see some faces from home and made me realise how much I truly do miss everyone. Good to see though that love from afar works just as well and no matter how far I am away, or for how long, there are people I will always love dearly and who will always return the friendship (regardless of how little I e-mail or how often I blab on about my UK/Europe adventures). Awwwwwww!

Here are a couple more of my favourite Paris pics...
In front of the Eiffel:

Getting an eyeful (haha!):

Paris by night:

And no visit to Paris is complete without a decadent visit to my heaven, Angelina's - the home of undeniably the best hot chocolate in the world and groan-inducing tarte aux fraises (below) and their famous mont-blanc cakes.

more pics later (and eventually when I load my photos from Burgundy and Germany - they're coming!)

Friday, June 23, 2006

And all came good in the end...

Well! What a day, what a fabulous day.... Not only did our 'Roos storm home to bag a place in the final 16 of the World Cup for the first time ever! (statistic check anyone?) BUT, we also found somewhere to live! But more on that later.

As my brother said to me last night, as we were crammed shoulder to shoulder in our pub of choice, watching our boys claim an exhilarating victory: "I have never felt so Australian than right now!" Like I've said in these pages before, sometime true patriotism is born when you are away from your homeland, and missing the sun and surf - chuck in a successful sporting match, and you'll be crying 'Waltzing Matilda!'. Having said that, from all the text messages I got, it sounded like Sydney was having it's fair share of patriotism! Although we had a fantastic night, I was jealous of the guys who were actually at the game, which sounded like the craziest thing ever (and even landed Simone on page four of The Times with her blow up kangaroo). A once in a lifetime experience without a doubt. But I have to say, it's a joy to be in London for the World Cup too - everyone is in festival mood (the photo is the moment we won). And the Aussies in our office have got all the Poms cheering along the Aussies which is an awesome effort (although I'm a little worried what might happen if by some freakish occurence we have to play England - I think my job, not to mention my relationship, would be on the line!)

Anyways, must dash as I am off to Paris for a three day weekend - yes the adventure never stops. 50 quid return! Is this not heaven I ask you?!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Finding our dream home - a (so far) elusive ambition

It's somewhat difficult finding an amazing 'dream' place to live when you already reside in a huge, friendly, riverside apartment. When we moved in, in October last year, we thought nothing of the fact that the owner 'might come back on the summer next year' - I didn't even know if I would still be in the country! But now the time has come, and with no view to be going home anytime soon, we have found ourselves being turfed out of our lovely flat (damn the relaxed nature of our non-existent lease agreement!) and consequently will be homeless next Saturday. Although it is only technically a period of two months which we need to be out of our flat for, the thought of moving all our belongings twice and finding somewhere to live in the meantime, gave us the heeby-jeebys and we decided that our riverside days, as beautiful and lovely as they have been, must come to an end. It's time to move on to new things!

Enter a month of agonising over flats/houses which were too small, miles away from anywhere, too old and too scabby, too expensive, too cheap (yes, there is such a thing), not available, downright ugly and just not right. We've also learnt that while an agent can be your best friend when they have an "amazing, just right for you" house they are also there to slam you with fees for everything under the sun which will set you back at least £300. They can also tend to be a little creative with "oh yes, it's just MINUTES away from the tube station" and you don't find until you get there that they actually meant TWENTY minutes. Finding houses off free websites like through people like us means you get no fees, but likely it happens that you don't get a formal lease agreement (which I might need later on for visa purposes) and things can happen like just happened to us - where you get turfed out because you technically have no legal contract! It worked fantastically for us for a year, but I think we need something a bit more concrete now.

Anyways, we are looking at three more places tonight and it's crunch time. I'm going to pick one of these if it kills me!

The agony of house hunting has somewhat overshadowed the fact that it is the bug AUSTRALIA VS CROATIA game today. I came to work decked out in green and gold, complete with Aussie lanyard and whistle so I'm all set. Not getting my hopes too high, but the Aussie spirit is all about daring to dream right?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Five countries in one day

The cute (crazy?) little French lady we befriended (or who befriended us) in Ray-sur-Saone, in Burgundy, France:

And the Bergkirchweih in Germany - the second largest beer festival in Germany after Oktoberfest, held in the friendly town or Erlangen outside Nuremberg. Very wild, and lots of fun (just hold on to your stein for dear life):

And me in sunny Brugge, Belgium (pigtail plaits inspired by drive through Holland a couple of hours earlier):

This was during our 'five countries in one day' drive - a mammoth journey from Cologne, Germany through Holland, then to Belgium, then to France, to get a ferry back to England. Phew! Surprisingly enjoyable though - the boys were especially impressed by the quality of the loos in Dutch service stations (although outraged that they cost 30 cents to use). Better than the roadside diners between Sydney and Wagga!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Every time I've thought about what to write about in the last week or so I get a bit overwhelmed cause there's too much to tell and I don't know where to start!

London and Europe in general are currently going mad for the World Cup, and the atmosphere everywhere is brilliant. Combine that with the gorgeous sunshine and long, hot days and everyone is in a great mood. Of course yesterday we has the Australia vs Brazil game. We were so proud of our boys, and it's only made it better for the Croatia showdown on Thursday night. Tomorrow night is England Vs Sweden so everyone is going slightly mental.

Had a fabulous summery weekend! Summertime brings heaps of music festivals to Hyde Park, and although you can pay for the privilege to hear the tunes, you can also do as we did, and take a picnic (and lots of beer) and sit outside the boundaries of the festival where you can still hear everything and see the big screen. We saw the Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stoneage for free - no complaints there.

Also, as promised, here are some photos from our amazing trip. This is me driving our boat through sunny France:

We took a seven day cruise through Burgundy, on a four bedroom boat with two bathrooms and two toilets, 'saloon kitchen' and dining room table, deck and umbrella. This is one of the many picturesque villages we drove through:

And a little French lady we befriended in a gorgeous riverside village called Ray-sur-Saone. She invited us in to see her cats (there were 40, kinda gross) and for sandwiches and showed us her ancient barn where her grandparents first lived when they were married over 100 years ago. She invited us to walk through the tunnel that apparently went from her basement up to the castle and even though she was a cute little old lady, we got a creepy 'Hansel and Gretel' moment and made our hasty-but-not-too-obvious departures:

(something's wrong with my computer so i can't post it now, so stay tuned for pic of the cute little ancient French lady!)

Will post the link once I've loaded the rest of my piccies.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Lordy, you don't update your blog for more than a week and look what happens! Not only the most amazing and best holiday ever but GO AUSSIE! Far from disgracing ourselves on a national stage our green and gold socceroos have sparked the nation-wide hope that maybe we can add another sport to one of those things we are good at, with a cracker win over Japan in our first World Cup match in over 30 years....nicely done boys, we are all so proud! (don't ask us how we feel after Sunday's Brazil showdown, just let us savour the moment).

I watched the game sat next to an incredibly fat but friendly French man in the port town of Dunkerque in France, about to catch a ferry back to Dover after the most amazing trip through the gorgeous countryside and canals of France, through to the colour and craziness of World Cup Germany (and the mad Berg beer festival), to beautiful Brugge in Belgium - then we were back to sunny (yes, sunny!) London. It was ten days of pure bliss and a perfect holiday mix of pure relaxation, great friends, crazy nights out and unforgettable memories. I have so many stories and photos, but you'll all have to wait at least a day or so, as I'm completely exhausted and don't even know where to begin. But I will be imparting all the details so stay tuned.

In the meantime I'm cheating a little bit and re-using some photos from my last trip to Germany in the spirit of the World Cup theme (the weather has got a lot nicer since then!). These were taken when we got our private tour around the Nuremburg stadium thanks to Steffi (who was "on the inside"). This will not be the scene of any Aussie glories but it was still great to see. It will be the site for England Vs Sweden on Thursday which should be interesting (normally I wouldn't really care but we get to knock off work half an hour early).

The good looking spectators at the stadium:

Before the mayhem sets in:

Friday, June 02, 2006

Thought I'd give you all a dose of London, since I'm off to France tomorrow and my upcoming posts will probably be filled with tales of lounging on our meandering canal boat, drinking fine red wine and gorging on cheese...ahhhh!

Anyway here is an 'arty' photo my sister took while in London a couple of weeks ago which i think is quite cool

And Ben, Rhiannon and I in front of the Eye

The view from the Eye down to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament

And the girls and me on the Eye!

As you can see, it was quite a cloudy day when we went up (it was a few weeks ago), but I would still recommend it. Try and find one of the discount stands around the city and you can get tickets for around £12 or book online at the website and you get a 10% discount (so tickets will be around £11)

While we're on the subject of London - I never wrote again about the play I saw the other day. If you want to see a show in London you MUST see The Woman in Black. It was absolutely brilliant, fantastic acting (only two actors playing various characters) and really, really scary! I never thought I could be scared of theatre, but at one point I actually (quite embarrasingly) screamed and almost spilt my red wine everywhere (out of the classy plastic cup I got it in!). We got tickets from Last Minute and they were only a tenner (or you can pay up around £20 for dinner included). The theatre is right near Covent Garden too so excellenty placed to continue the evening of entertainment after - bargain!

Anyways, we are leaving before the crack of dawn tomorrow as we are driving to Dover (i'm excited about the white cliffs!) then getting a ferry to Dunkerque in France, then driving to Burgundy. Am so excited. Will write more later - perhaps from a quaint little French village :)
Au revoir!

Back by popular demand
Apparently the e-mail address you use to make your National Insurance Number appointment is difficult to find on the Internet, and heaps of people are searching for it. So here it is again: E-mailing this address to make your appointment to get your NI number will save you sitting on hold for 40 minutes like I did.