Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Do they hate us?

Some interesting points - some of them extremely valid. New Yanks and Jafas - Why no-one likes Aussies anymore. My first foray to a Walkabout on the weekend for the first time since the AFL grand final last year, was thoroughly embarrassing. The point must be made however, that for every bogan, idiotic, ignorant and completely juvenile Aussie I meet in London (of which there were quite a few there on Saturday), I meet an educated, interesting and worldly Aussie to match. So perhaps Australia is like any country - you get the morons, and then you get the ones worth worrying about.

PS This is not an open invitation for 'Anonymous' individuals to write insulting comments about Australians on my blog. Thanks.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Getting the best seat in the house

This is a topic close to the hearts and minds of travellers everywhere - especially for me with my apparent genetic tendency to blood-clot! I had no idea things had got so advanced - and so competitive. It's no longer good enough to turn up at the airport early and ask for a window seat! Check it out - How to get the best seat on the plane

Thursday, March 22, 2007

NSW Election Day this Saturday - Iemma Vs Debnam

Either you're newly arrived in the UK and fresh from the NSW debates about de-salination VS recycled water, Debnam's budgie smugglers, Iemma's embarrassing "More to do...but heading in the right direction" campaign slogan and grumbles over the NSW transport and road systems, or you've been neglecting your Australian citizenship duties while you're living it up in London!

If you haven't voted already, today is your last chance to make your voice heard from an afar - it's the NSW election and even though you're in London, you can still cast your vote.

How do I vote?
Get down to Australia House today before 3.30pm to cast your postal vote! Find out more here

Help! I have no idea what's going on in Australian state politics!
Iemma and Rudd have just made their 'plea' to NSW to warn of the dangers of a backlash of protest votes (understandably the NSW public has been quite irate of late! - opening of the M2 tunnel anyone?). But opinion polls have consistently placed Labour ahead of Debnam's Liberals - prompting commentators to lament about the choice of picking 'the best worst one'.

To read more about the election, visit the Sydney Morning Herald NSW Election microsite or the NSW Election official site.

Monday, March 19, 2007

You can't beat the Borough

In the past year and a half, I've steadily been completing a comprehensive tour of all the great markets in London. Until Saturday, I hadn't yet ventured to Borough Market, and I'm very glad I finally did! Borough Market, minutes from London Bridge, is London's oldest food market and it is amazing - it's the most delectable smorgasbord of tastes, smells and sights and will have you breaking every diet rule in the book as you wander amongst all the stalls taste-testing all the wares. I actually didn't need to buy any lunch for myself as I was so full from sampling cheese, chutneys, tapenades, sausages, falafel, cured meats, muesli, chocolate brownies etc etc (it really is the perfect destination for skint working travellers in this respect!) Just watch out you don't spend as much money as we did on purchasing a gourmet selection of the things we sampled (hhmm, I'm thinking this is the whole point of taste-testing, no? Crafty buggers).

You can get every imaginable type of cheese (yes, I had a field day), all kinds of fresh produce from France, Switzerland, Germany and more, plus fine wines and pate's, and weird stuff like haggis, fresh hare and pigs feet - mmmmm. There's also some great deals to be had at the fresh fruit and vegetable stalls, if you're over buying sick-looking veggies from Tesco and Sainsbury's. We got about 60 of the reddest, ripest, most delicious vine tomatoes for a pound - bargain! Will definitely be going back.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Beating the British Bulge - staying fit in London

I've lived here for over a year and a half so I can't really use the Heathrow Injection - the old adage that everyone piles on a few pounds once you walk through the gates of Heathrow - as an excuse anymore. These days my biggest problem is the pile of Tim Tams/Caramello Koalas/Cherry Ripes etc that I brought back with me from Australia 'to share' with my London housemates (let's just say there has not been much sharing).

Anyway, it's about that time of the year when it starts to get warmer and you start thinking about all those summer clothes you've got to squeeze back into in a few months. It's a little bit harder for working travellers in London who have been coping with the unfamiliar winter chill with cheap pub meals, pints and nights out in the capital. The good news is though is that there are plenty of (affordable) ways to beat the bulge in London.

Social sports
Now it's getting warmer, the outdoor social sports comps are starting again. I've signed up for netball again (£45 for 10 games in a social league) and my mates have organised a touch football team. There are heaps of comps and leagues across London and the UK where you can meet friends and get fit. I wrote about some of these leagues in the WORKgateways newsletter last year - check it out here

Many travellers are astounded by the cost of gym memberships in London - for a decent gym in inner London you are looking at membership fees of between £60-£80 per month. You should instead look to smaller community fitness/rec centres which allow you to pay per visit or have lower fees (of course the equipment and decor of these places is not going to be as nice as the plush inner city gyms though). You could always just head to your local lido (the Brit name for an outdoor swimming pool) for a calorie-burning splash.

Gym deals
Having said how expensive gyms in London, you can definitely pick up some great discounts and deals so keep an eye out. PruHealth is currently running a promotion that if you sign up for health insurance with them (at a cost of £18-£25 per month), you can get six months free gym membership at Cannons health clubs. They also offer a discounted rate for Virgin Active gyms across London. Another loophole to saving cash, is that if you join up to PruHealth via the online cashback co-operative Quidco you get £115 cashback on top of your free/discounted gym membership (I did this myself in February so can guarantee it works).

Spectator sports
If exercise is not for you (and who are we kidding, there are a lot of us out there!), perhaps spectating is more your style. One of the most fun sporting events in London coming up is the Oxford and Cambridge Boat race, held on the Thames in Putney. It's on 7 April. Everyone over here is also getting excited about the Rugby World Cup, to be held later this year in France, and the Cricket World Cup which has kicked off in the West Indies. Go team!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Back in the UK...and Brighton

It's good to be back. Freezing...but good to be back. My jet lag is only just starting to wear off (I have been bouncing off the walls at 6am most mornings), and was combated by perhaps not the most effective method: denial. Adamant that I was fine I went about the weekend, planning dinners out etc. This has resulted in me being more than just a little space-cadet-esque for the past few days. We did go to Brighton though (my 'welcome back to the UK' treat) and although the winds were hurricane-inducing and the rain was torrential, it was still a very nice couple of days. I finally made it inside Brighton's Royal Pavilion this time too - a feast of opulent design and architecture. It really takes your breath away (last time we spent so much time in the fascinating museum nearby we never made it to the pavilion). Also discovered more of Brighton's delights in the form of the vegetarian and organic cafe's and restaurants (a great one we tried was Food for Friends) and of course browsed the local boutiques, art studios, and unique shops. Oh I love that place.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Farewell to Oz

Well it had to come to an end eventually, and I'm now on my way back to London after a fantastic month back home. My last day was spent having oysters and sav blanc at Watsons Bay, then cocktails at the Orbit bar at the top of Australia square, then more Sydney Rock Oysters and dinner with my family at Nick's in Cockle Bay. Drinks at Opera Bar with all my mates the other night was also a perfect send off. A perfect end to a great few weeks. And although I'm looking forward to the lights of London, I'm also immeasurably sad to be leaving again.

And so I came to the tearful goodbye with Mum and Dad at the airport this morning. I had to make a quick exit so as not to become one of those bawling idiots everyone stares at. I then continued to blub for most of the ten hour journey to Korea though - the ponytailed American beside me thought I was a little strange I'm sure (although I'm not sure he noticed between the 12 Budweisers he drank). My fragile emotional state was not helped by the book I was reading - the latest offering from my favourite trashy indulgence Marian Keyes (chosen specifically for my flight for it's light entertainment value and large print). It turned out to be one of the more serious and emotional of her books (though still hilarious) and despite the fact that it was embarrasingly emblazoned with a huge shiny 'Women's Weekly Great Read' sticker (a poor man's Oprah's Book Club if we're honest) - it was actually quite good. But also a bit depressing and touching, hence the idiotic blubbing me. Although I do admit that I do sometimes tend to cry at the drop of a hat (bingo: see the final two instalments in the tagging incident "things you need to know/didn't know about Pru" coming soon.)

ANYWAYS - one of the most important things I wanted to write here is some advice to fellow travellers going from Sydney to London or vice versa. FLY KOREAN AIR AND DO A STOPOVER IN SEOUL. This may be logical to all but me, but I have never done a stopover before, always choosing to get it over with and fly straight through. Oh my lord have I been missing out. Because it was the only flight I could get, I agreed reluctantly to staying a night here in Seoul in between. Not only do i get a proper night's sleep in a proper bed, but they have put me up in the five star Hyatt (which is divine), given me free dinner and breakfast (dinner was again, divine) and i'm now reclining in my hotel room (divine) in a fluffy robe with a glass of wine from room service, just cause i can! Triple divine! Sure beats battling against ponytailed Budweiser man (or the incredibly irritating Russian woman I got last time) in a tiny sweaty seat for some armrest space so you can try and get 30 seconds of nap after a feral meal (I couldn't even see the tiny movie screen - ripped off!). This is my new favourite way to travel. Another merlot please....and on to London.