Thursday, April 27, 2006

From the land of the Queen to the land of the green

Top o' the mornin' to yo all

Soho, Portobello Road, a 20 degree sunny day, Crystal maze and singstar....
have combined to make for my best times abroad so far. Getting back to London from France was a relief. Its funny how being surrounded by English speaking people and being in the proximity of a couple of people you know makes you feel so at home! On Thursday Julian - one of Sal's flatmates & I explored Soho. I was convinced that I needed to visit a music store called Mr Bingo and made Julian follow me around for ages up and down dodgy streets then back and forth up the same street only to find that it was boarded up and closed down!!!! It was a pretty dreary day so what better way to handle it than as the poms do - we stopped for a couple of pints at the Bear and Staff! That night I had my first meal 'out' over here and went to an Italian restaurant at Balham called Ferrari's. It was really good but I'm still not getting used to the food being so heavy over here - I completely understand the problem of the Heathrow injection and realise that I may need to come home via Egypt, India or some other place where I am highly likely to get amoebic dysentery and lose any pounds that I've inadvertently added to my body.

Portobello Rd was amazing - it is definitely my favourite place in London so far. Thanks for the tip on the colourful house Deckers. I loved the whole street and then was in heaven at the markets where I purchased a VERY cool pair of vintage leather boots. I walked away feeling very Kate Moss/ Sienna Miller like minus the supermodel status, famous & rich boyfriend or the drug problem. I estimate that I walked around 15km on this day. Although the whole Heathrow injection thing is a concern I think I'm fairly safe at the moment with the amount of walking I've been doing. This perfect day was capped off with Sal's farewell. In itself this was awful but the party was lots of fun. We had 2 different versions of Singstar and I had a Major fight on my hands for microphone dominance. Luckily, I skillfully manipulated the game so it was boys competing against girls and as I am highly experienced in the art of karaoke and Singstar I managed to achieve high scores thus being the prime candidate for competing for the girls..... yay - more microphone time for me!!! The best song of the night was Eye of the Tiger - I must dedicate this win the Kate for that night in Collins St with Todd & your Converse. Mr & Mrs Sutherland, it also made me think of you and I drew on the Tigers power in the grand final to achieve my win.

Saturday was the most stunning day. The sun was a blazing and the day was only marred by a double stabbing murder which closed of Tooting High Street and created a one hour return walk to Mo's from Sal's as opposed to the usual 10 minute. After partying on Friday night to celebrate the completeion of his exam Mo was in poor form but I dragged him out and we hung out in Clapham Common. In the spirit of the warm weather I decided to pack light. Wearing shorts and a Tshirt and not taking a jacket seemed to make me absentminded as I also forgot my wallet. It was a horrible feeling. Its weird how if I had lost my wallet in Australia I would have been angry but everything would have been OK but here I was having a panic attack that someone was going to steal my identity, empty my bank accounts and use all of my valuables as ransom in extortion attempts. Luckily when we got home it was simply hiding under the contents of my backpack.

Mo's mates had organised a Crystal Maze day for a couple of peoples' birthdays. I had sooooo much fun. Crystal maze is a TV show similar to the Amazing race. When we met them at the starting point - The Painting and the Pitcher we were put into teams where we had to compete against each other in skill, physical or mental challenges. My team were awesome - aptly named The Goats as these are my favourite animal, we managed to draw only the wooden spoon but all agreed that we did the best team bonding and had the most fun! My physical challenge was to get a date stamp on a piece of paper. Let me tell you this is much harder than it seems. Date stamps are a thing of the past. I may as well have been challenged to bring back an abacus. After 15 minutes of flat out running and 2 attempts at sticking a receipt with a date on it on my piece of paper... I lost :( The 2 boys I was competing against chatted up some young skirt and managed to get their stamps.

is a very cool place. I've only been here for 2 days but am absolutely exhausted from walking around so much. I actually came into this Internet cafe just to sit down! Having got up at 4.30 to be on the plane by 6.30, the second I got onto my siteseeing tour I fell asleep!!! I woke up at the same stop that I had got on the bus from! Needless to say the next hour was spent recapping what I had missed in the first hour. I was amazed flying into Dublin just how green Ireland is. I had expected everything to be green but had no idea that it would look like an oil painting. It was stunning. I met up with Darcy last night for a seemingly quite pint (it was Monday night) and ended up getting to bed at 3am. We ran into his flatmate & girlfriend and had a really fun night trying all of the different beers at The Porterhouse then going to a nightclub (Red's, Ev & LJ) and dancing the night away. Sorry Ev but Irishmen are soooooooooooo sleazy. I thought the French were bad but the Irish ones are so upfront and unashamed!! It probably had something to do with the place we were at being full of uni students but Ive even noticed on the streets that men make passing comments etc. Its worse than just walking past a building site in Sydney! The other weird thing was that in the toilets of the bar there was a lady there with cans of hairspray, deodorant, perfume etc etc who would freshen you up..... not a bad idea but she was getting hardly any tips and I felt sorry for her.

Staying at Darcy's place for the next 2 nights as he lives in his mates family house which apparently has 6 bedrooms & only the 2 of them living there. I'm really happy about this as the hostel had its heating turned up to somewhere between 30 degrees and Australia in the sun on a stinker of a day in the middle of a drought.

Should be meeting up with Brian Gaffney and Ian Grant (Potahhhhto's brother & mate) tonight so I'll be sure (to be sure) to get some dirt on Ev for you to use in whichever way you will Morts.

That's about it for the moment - I go on a Paddywagon Tour of Southern Ireland on Thursday, I am hoping to see a leprechaun and find a pot of gold plus eat lots of potahhhhos.

Hope you are all well & had a great ANZAC Day.

Love Loz xx.

p.s. I keep adding my photos to my album so check them out!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Across the English Channel

Hullo From London!

Well I'm back in grey London and very releived to hear english speaking people everywhere!

The last few days in France were very good. I really liked Annecy and it was fantatsic to be staying in a family home as opposed to a hostel! In the few days I was at Annecy my opinion of France changed yet again. Annecy wasn't just a collection of grey builings as I had seen in Paris and Caen. It was surrounded by unbelievable mountains and a stunning lake. Plus I was blessed with fantastic weather. The size of the mountains blew me away. Ive never seen anything like it. Annecy is on the border of Switzerland, Italy and France and at some points I felt like was in The Sound Of Music! It was very cool to be wearing a t-shirt and skirt in the sun but to look up and be surrounded by snow capped mountains.

I picked up laryngitis from somewhere which meant that I completely lost my voice for a few days. Here is one major positive about getting this in France - since I couldn't speak French anyway I didn't need to use my voice. It was pretty horrible being sick in a foreign country though. Thank goodness Ive come back to London to stay with a doctor. He's fixing me up as we speak!

The train trip home from France was relatively uneventful - no breakdowns, strikes or long periods of waiting! The most eventful thing that happened was me completeing my first ever suduko. I was quite proud of myself as ve never been able to do it but after acquiring a kids version I seemed to do ok.
So for the next few days in london I've borrowed some siteseeing walk cards of Mo's. They are pretty cool. Each card has a different city walk on it and takes you around some cool places. Yesterday I explored Soho with one of Sal's flatmates. I really liked Soho. It was a little like Newtown with lots of funky bars and shops in old narrow streets. I also had a look through Chinatown where I may as well have been in Chinatown in Sydney. Had a couple of pints at the Bear and Staff before moving onto an aptly named bar called Smoke.

Its Sal's farewell tonight & karaoke is on the cards! Watch out! This will be my first overseas karaoke session and Im not too ure if London is ready for the outbusrt. I hear that people are already queing up for the event and a rendition of Living on a Prayer is going to be absolutely necessary.
I head to Ireland on Monday which should be quite cool. Im meeting up with Barry Andersons (Bing Lee creative director) son. I'm quite looking forward to it - Ive only met him once before but he is very much like his Dad from what I remember just not as old and cranky ;) Darcy has also been living and working in Dublin for 12 months so knows his way around. Should spend 3-4 days travelling then back to Dublin to meet Evin and LJ's brothers and sisters and friends.
Ive worked out how to get my photos online so here is the link! Ive labelled most of them but was getting sick of being behind the computer so some arent labelled as yet!

Well I must go to warm up my vocal chords - I dont want to disappoint particulalrly oafter the bout of laryngitis. Also off the Portebello road today. I think Ill have to leave the credit cards at home!!!

Miss you all & keep the emails coming!

xx Loz

ps some of you are on this email for the first time - I realised that half of the names Id copied across didnt actually copy so Im sorry for not contacting you sooner!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Installment #5: Caen to Annecy

I cannot wait to leave France! So many people that Ive spoken to love France and have had great experiences here but I have had such a bad experience that I actually would advise anybody against visiting here and I never want to come back.

Caen to Annecy....
was to be a very easy trip. I had prebought my train tickets so it shouldn't have been a problem. No such luck. I rose bright and early at 5.30 to be on a train at 6. Boarding the train was fine and I was looking forward to having a rest before getting to Paris to change for Annecy. about 5 minutes out of Caen the train stopped and didn't start again for an hour and a half. They made many announcements during this time but none in English and I found out that train conductors are either deaf or just as rude as the rest of the French people despite being employed in a job where they are supposed to help people. Finally another train came and towed us back to Caen where I got on another train for Paris. By this stage I had missed my connecting train to Annecy. As a result I got to know a filthy metal bench in Gare Lyon station quite well over the two and a half hours that I waited for the next train. Having been awake since 5.30 and drunk a 1.5L bottle of Evian I was in dire need of a toilet only to find that the toilets were on strike. How you may ask? I have no idea but I also have no idea why anyone would want to live in this horrible country however the strike does somewhat explain the filth and love for defecating in public places in Paris and it did make me feel a bit sympathetic towards those who do so as they, like me, were probably also restricted from the basic human right to go to the bathroom when required. A couple of hours later I arrived in Annecy. The sun was shining and it was very warm. Things could only get better.... one would think. After speaking to Jess I knew which bus I was supposed to catch but when asking for directions as to where to catch the bus my phone cut out and I was forced to approach French people for directions. During the next 15 minutes I got yelled at by 2 separate people and physically pushed off a bus by the bus driver all the while lugging around my 15kg backpack. After standing looking very lost and by this stage recklessly abandoned I sighted the bus for St Joriz and found my way to Jess! Everyone says that travelling is full of life changing experiences but I can honestly say that seeing Jess has been my first. It changed the grimace that had been on my face for the last week in France into a smile.

Is very pretty. Despite the rude bus drivers it is much nicer than anywhere else that I have seen in France. The town is surrounded by some amazing snow capped mountains and a massive lake. I can imagine that in the sun and during the summer it must be very beautiful. Jess and I walked around Annecy for about an hour and looked at all of the old buildings and alley ways. I then proceeded to step in a puddle that was really the size and depth of a small pond which resulted in a freezing and saturated foot for the rest of the day! I suppose it was karma though as I had just been laughing at one of the row boats that had capsized unbeknown to its owner.

We caught the train to Chamonix which is one of the ski villages on the border of France, Switzerland and Italy. Chamonix was amazing. I had the first truly enjoyable time since I left Sal in Disneyland. Jess and I had crepes for afternoon tea then went and played in the snow. It was just gorgeous. I have some fantastic photos from the snow and will try and send some asap. It was so crazy being in the snow when the day before it had been so hot. The other fantastic thing about Chamonix was that there were hardly any French people there. It was full of British and Americans. Everyone was really lovely to me and Jess and I danced until 4 o'clock in the morning.

Unfortunately Ive been a bit sick over the last few days and seem to have picked up a cold which hasn't been helped by the constant moving around and today I have completely lost my voice. I think its also because so many people smoke over here and after an hour or so in a restaurant you feel like you've been smoking yourself. Ive really noticed the smoke affecting my throat and nose. It is disgusting.

Well after missing yet another train we had to wait an hour and a half for the train home then got charged 25 euro for a ten minute cab ride. Despite this we both had a fantastic night however whilst Ive been trying to be positive about France and take all of the rudeness in my stride I still really dislike it and have no desire whatsoever to return. I cannot wait to get back to England in 2 days time!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Installment 4: Pronunciation is the key

I have had a very interesting few days......

As I was too wrapped up in my stories of Paris I didn't mention my reason for coming to France in the first place. Sal (or her boss rather) arranged a 3 day stay and pass to Euro Disney! Although this wouldn't have been top of my of things to do whilst travelling I had a great time!

We caught the Eurostar from Waterloo to Lille which in itself was quite eventful. About half an hour into the trip a stream of men dressed in convict outfits started marching through the carriage. Sal and I thought it was pretty funny combined with the fact that it was 8am and they had filled the carriage with the stench of beer it made for a good talking point. It turned out that they were a rugby team travelling to France to play some sort of match although it seemed they were really only there to drink and talk to girls. Before we knew it the team had gathered around Sal and I and began singing God Save the Queen shortly followed by a boisterous rendition of Waltzing Matilda. Much to our disdain when we hopped off the train to change for our next train the team got off as well. We tried to avoid them but unfortunately found seats outside the bar which of course they had overtaken! All in all it was pretty funny and luckily we only had a short wait.

When we arrived at Disneyland we were both overwhelmed with how American it all was. We had expected a French looking hotel but it was more like an American yacht club. Needless to say it was extremely luxurious given that I have been staying in hostels or dossing with people. Disneyland was amazing. Caroline, Sal's boss, and her daughter Abby were with us and it really made the experience all the more better as Abby's excitement was quite contagious. Walking into Disneyland was seriously like walking into another world. There was this constant bubbly music playing and some sort of magic everywhere you looked. Although very commercial you definitely couldn't walk around in a bad mood or be unhappy at all. Sal and I felt like constantly skipping and singing!

and I had come to the point of mutual respect for one another by Tuesday evening. The day started off well with me navigating my way to the train station and buying my ticket to Canne, Canne to Paris and Paris to Annecy. Feeling quite proud of myself I set off exploring on foot. I got quite lost as I didn't have a map but found myself in some very narrow and authentic French streets. I hopped back on the tour that I had been on the day before (a smile and a day old ticket seems to be the way to get 2 days for the price of one) and travelled to the Louvre. Unfortunately it was closed. Although disappointed to not see any of the artworks it was very cool to wander around the buildings and look at the shops. From here I managed to get on a river cruise (again for free) and cruised down the Seine to the Eiffel Tower and back up to Notre Dame where I left the cruise and walked up to the Latin Quarter. After seeing Saint Germain from the bus I hopped off and wandered around the Latin Quarter. It was really beautiful. It reminded me of Lygon Street in Melbourne with all of the restaurateurs calling you to come and try their food etc. Whilst walking back across the Seine to catch the metro home I looked up the river and this is where I decided that despite its stench and filth I really did like Paris. It was extremely beautiful in the evening and being able to see all of the old architecture lining the river was pretty special.

A French film maker....
approached me when I was back at the hostel. He was quintessentially French. He was incredibly passionate about his film making and also about himself! I spent a couple of hours talking to him and as it turned out he has a film in the Cannes film festival and showed it to me on his computer. I have also acquired myself a copy - a special gift for a beautiful woman apparently. So Jean Philippe also changed my impression of Paris. While conversation was a little difficult and he was very much in love with himself it made me realise that perhaps this was what I was failing to recognise in other French people. That they are just incredibly passionate about themselves but also everything they do and that perhaps their resistance to helping foreigners is only a function of their national pride.

wouldn't be that difficult to pronounce or so one would think but apparently it is. On Wednesday morning I rise bright and early having visions of tropical surroundings, cocktails and owners of mega yachts swooning at my feet. On Wednesday morning I also arrived in Caen. Difference being that Cannes is pronounced Cunn and Caen is pronounced Cun. Disembarking the train I thought to myself this is much less tropical than I thought but still I held hopes for soft sand and youth. After acquiring a local map and not finding my hotel on it I asked for help only to be laughed at when I gave an address for Cannes and the madame pointed to the top of the map where it read Caen. Apparently Caen was not simply a French way of spelling Cannes for which I had hoped. So rather than entering the Gabriel-esque (from Desperate Housewives) paradise I had hoped for Id landed myself in a decidedly more Bree-esque town absolutely perfect for a spot of antiquing. It is actually quite humorous. If you look at a map I have ended up at the northern tip of France as opposed to the Southern - this will teach me for travelling sans map.

people are always friendly so after a day of walking around Caen I took myself to an Irish pub where I met 2 Englishmen from Dover. They really were my saving grace for the day. We had a few beers followed by a heated game of Top Trumps - a kids card game. This was absolutely hilarious. It was probably the first time since Ive left home that Ive had a really good laugh. I'm so glad that I met them as one, Jez could speak quite fluent French which led to us meeting some locals and me having a dance with an incredibly talented old man. Last night was fantastic so perhaps ending up North rather than South was a blessing in disguise.

Well wish me luck finding my way back to Paris then onto Annecy to meet Jess - I cant wait to see her!

Love to you all

Loz xx

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Installment #3: Bath to Paris

Well I've done quite a bit of travelling since I last wrote from grey old London and many stories to tell but I will try and keep it brief so as not to bore you all to death!

was amazing. It was the first time since I've left (other than the living out of a backpack part) that I've felt like I am actually travelling. I spent last Monday planning my travels for the next few months and it started by getting out of London and seeing a bit of England's countryside. I had found myself questioning why I had left Sydney for a place as grey as London but as soon as I'd been on the bus to Bath for about 30 minutes I realised why. The English countryside is gorgeous. Apparently there is a water shortage here at the moment but no-one would know. Everything was lush and green and quintessentially English.

To my amusement we arrived at Spa Bath Station around 3 hours later (yes Dan, Bath also has showers). It was absolutely freezing. So while I had tried to out-do the boys in minimalistic packing stakes I froze my toes off and they remained snug and wrapped up in every item of clothing they had packed. Luckily the sun was shining and as I have a new found sense of direction and somewhat impressive talent for navigating public transport I took the lead and managed to keep us in the direct sunlight for the remainder of the day. We booked into St Christophers - the only part of which was saintly was the fact that it was opposite a church, and started exploring (by the way, 'we' is David Pashley & 2 of his mates Nat & Sean).

First stop were the Roman baths. I wandered around by myself for the majority of the time and loved it. I couldn't get over how old everything was and archeologists are still finding ruins now. I couldn't help thinking that it was a shame that the Baths aren't open to swim in. Its disappointing that nature provides us with such a blessing only to be deprived of it for the sake of historiacal preservation.

We were truely blessed by the weather the following day. It was really clear and sunny - so much so that I was only wearing a singlet and jeans for the majority of the day. We walked around the cobblestone streets for a few hours then up to the Circus (a circular building) with a park next to it and pretty well lay in the park for the remainder of the day. It is school holidays over here and its seems all of the teenagers had the same idea. All you could smell was marijuana, car fumes and promiscuity!!!! It was very amusing watching all of them. David decided to join in a soccer game that was being played and managed to attract the attention of numerous pretty young things - much to his disdain Nat & I took the role of reminding him of the legal age of consent and he swiftly decided it was time to depart.

anything in London without a car is a massive pain!!! I am really angry at myself for bringing so much stuff over here. I overpacked in a big way due to the 2 different halves of my trip - 1 travelling: I packed pretty well for this phase with only one backpack. - 2 working: it was absolutely pointless for me to pack work clothes. Everything is so comparatively cheap here that I really didn't even need to bring my suit, it would have been really cheap to set myself up with work clothes - Tree/Joey/Lopps & Jelly you 4 are being held responsible sans waring!!!! Anyway - I had to move all of my stuff (A backpack, a big suitcase & a hand luggage case) from Bretts at Fulham to Mo's at Balham. This is akin to moving from Ryde to say Frenches Forest - in short, a massive struggle on public transport. I looked like a donkey. No I looked like a sweaty, smelly, very lost and frustrated nomad with a broken down donkey who had kicked the bucket only to leave its ownere with the load to ship. Luckliy Mo met me at his end and drove me, the pack horse and my luggage to his place. I AM NOT MOVING IT ALL AGAIN (sorry Mo, you are stuck with me now).

Paris - the city of love....
for defacating in public places, for one's own language and ripping off foreigners. Then again, I haven't attended the ballet, been proposed to under the Eiffel Tower or been for a stroll in the park with my poodle. I am not impressed by Paris. My first impression was that it stinks (people use the Metro statiosn and tunnels for going to the toilet as you have to pay for public ones). I have found it absolutely filthy thus far and have the raw, dry hands from constant washing to show for it. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh. I did explore the city by myself today and the arc de triumph was amazing. The Eiffel Tower is also nice but I've heard it is better at night so if I make any friends tonight I may aim for that tomorrow night. I have been told by lots of people that Paris is amazing - I don't know where I'm going wrong. I do feel very ignorant that I haven't made any effort to learn French but it also seems that there aren't a great deal of other English speaking tourists here. Everything is geared towards French speaking people followed by Spanish, German and Asian countries. I'm sure there is some political reason for the lack of English translation of signs, tours etc but it does make it quite difficult for a foreigner (excpet for the public transport - again I have mastered this.... I know, its unbelievable, I think it is some sort of survival gene that has been passed down by my parents).

I am in Paris for another day and night then heading to Canne. I am really looking forward to this but I am yet to find out how I can get there! If you call an information line it is all in French and no-one can help direct you in the right way. Similarl to all of the information centres.

My travel plans....
As I mentioned at the start I've made plans for the next few months of travelling..... this is where I'm headed and when:

France until 18th April
London until 22nd April
Ireland until 30th April
Malta until 18th May
Munich until 21st May
Busabout tour of Germany, Austria, Italy, France & Switzerland for about 1 month

If anyone is planning to travel during this time let me know and hopefully we can catch up!!!

Well I am missing you all and love hearing from you so please don't stop texting or emailing.

Lots of love