January - December 2015
  • Day1

    Welcome to 2015

    January 1, 2015 in Austria ⋅ ⛅ 0 °C

    This time last year I was sitting on a bus recovering from a night bringing in 2014 in Paris with my Contiki family. I was full of excitement for the adventures up coming and optimism for the year that lay ahead.

    This year I am in Salzburg, Austria with my family! Mum and I stayed awake to see in midnight and boy was it worth it. Fireworks are legal for the public to buy and use here, so all night people all around the area were setting off little blasts here and there. When midnight finally rolled around boy did the skies light up with fireworks all over the place! It was just brilliant. The snow had finally stopped falling, it was -2 degrees and mum and I danced in the snow welcoming in the new year. After some hard work building an epic snowman earlier in the evening Dan and Dad retired to bed early.

    In 2014:
    I visited X countries and X towns (that I can remember)
    I moved to London and lived in Finsbury Park and West Hampstead
    I worked for a temp agency, interned for London Youth Games and am currently a project coordinator for TMPW
    I met loads of family in Ireland on both mum and dad's sides
    I went to Wimbledon and saw the men's quarter finals
    I went to Geneva for my birthday to watch Federer play in the Davis Cup
    I saw the Wallabies play England at Twickenham and I stumbled across a pub showing the State of Origin
    I attended the 99th ANZAC Day service in Gallipoli
    and saw many, many plays in the West End

    In 2015:
    I start with a job, a house and with my family
    I'm making some solid goals to give me direction for the year
    I'm going to get fit again a) join a gym near my house b) join a tennis club
    I want to learn German more
    I'm going to participate in the free meditation in Covent Garden
    I'm planning my travels and going to ensure I get the best prices

    I've volunteered to help at the London Comedy Film Festival in January. I am very excited about this opportunity, more excited then I've been in a while. And I'm going to keep my eyes open for a few more of these opportunities! Who knows what I might get to be a part of in 2015. One can only jump forward and take a leap of faith :)

    Where I stayed
    Austria Trend Hotel Salzburg Mitte - Muenchner Bundesstrasse 114a, Salzburg, Austria

    A comfortable hotel with very friendly staff. it's a little ways from the centre but a bus runs straight past into Old Town on a regular basis. Rooms were clean and tidy, just asking for a non-smoking one if you don't smoke. Free wi-fi and a good breakfast.
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  • Day2

    Vienna - a beginning and an end

    January 2, 2015 in Austria ⋅ ⛅ 7 °C

    We're arrived in Vienna! Although there was a moment in the train where it looked like it was going to be a mission.

    Train travel in Europe is fantastic. It's so very easy to show up, jump on and your in another country in a matter of hours, sometimes only one. But when everything is mostly in another language and there is sporadic English words in the timetables you can sometimes find yourself on the wrong train.

    Arriving early to the Salzburg train station we found that there were several trains departing for vienna, so we hoped on the next one to leave and off we went. As the beautiful snowy countryside sped past the train inspectors were checking everyone's tickets. When I showed the lady ours her words "we've got a problem" we're definitely not we were expecting or desired haha.

    Apparently, much like an airport, there are several train companies that depart from the train station and the one we had chosen was not the company we had boarded - oh no!

    She pointed on my ticket and indicated the next station we could get off at to join our actual train. Unlike TFL who made a mistake and charged us for their error, this company didn't mention a ting, probably realising we were Aussies from the outback. Thanks Westbahn, you have awesome staff and we greatly appreciated it!! The train was beautiful and I will definitely be looking into your timetable when I next come back to Europe for both your train and hospitality.

    So off we got and spent a lovely 30mins standing track side in the middle of nowhere, in the snow awaiting our actual train - superb haha

    When we did eventually arrive in Vienna we made our way to Hotel Austria. This was the hotel I stayed in when I first landed from Australia. It seems kind of symbolic and nice that I ended my trip with Mum, Dad and Dan where I began my trip 12 months ago.

    Hotel Austria is a beautiful hotel, located on the edge of Old Town. It has the most amazing breakfast and it's like a bit of old Vienssen glamour but without the price tag.

    Tonight our adventure of misdirections continued as we tried to find a place to do washing. After being directed by the hotel to a dry cleaners we set off on a 10 minute walk in the dark through the rain only to be told by the office that they were taking no more customers until Monday! As Dan hadn't done washing for almost a fortnight this was not an option for those of us sharing a room with him haha.

    So back we went and got a cab to the closest Green and Clean. These places are fab in Vienna, I tried one when I was here with Contiki. It's biggest asset is it's all in one wash & dry machines!

    With clothes washed and dried and a few beers put away we returned to our hotel and headed out to a local restaurant. Welcome to Vienna!
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  • Day5

    A day trip to Bratislava

    January 5, 2015 in Slovakia ⋅ ☁️ 1 °C

    Today we embarked on a trip across the border into Solvakia. Bratislava is one hour away from Vienna by train and only €16 return.

    Mum had been reading up on our new adventure and read about these famous bagels that where being made here. I was looking forward to those.

    We left the miserable weather of Vienna, hoping for something a little better, and jumped on the train. The countryside was great. There was smatterings on snow on the fields and many agricultural lands, plus packs of wind turbines every so often.

    Bratislava was an interesting place. They had coffee machines in the train station providing instant coffee for €0.20. It was cold and windy and rain sprinkled every so often. We took a cab to Old Town and walked around a little bit before finding a lovely table inside a cafe called 'the bagel & coffee story'.

    There was a huge range of bagels and all sorts of breads you could select. Mum and I had hummus, spinach and tomato, while Dad and Dan had chicken caesar. The bagels came out in little individual bags and toasty warm. They were very yummy.

    After a quick look at the weather forecast and being told there was a 90% chance of snow at 1pm and 100% chance at 2pm we decided that the bus tour of old town was probably better then the 2pm walking tour.

    The bus was supposed to pick up from the main square ever half an hour. So we waited in the cold and rain for almost an hour awaiting said bus. We found several so-so hiding spots from the wind and were entertained by a member of the Greek consulate leaning outside of a window with a stick trying to unravel the European Union flag haha.

    By now the rain was turning to sleet and then to snow, our weather forecast was correct. Giving up on the bus Dad and Dan waited in McDonald's (coffee was only €1 here) while mum and I did a quick block of some of the old town.

    The buildings were beautiful, each with a different intricate design on the outside. We saw some great eating & drinking places, a very cool bicycle rack and a warm cafe that smelt so delicious! We visited a chocolate shop that had lots of little individual pieces. After an earlier discussion on the trials of working in the NQ heat mum and I found Dan the perfect chocolate haha. (See pics)

    We headed back home to Vienna and with the weather much the same sleet rain before we left, we decided the best antidote was pub hoping the night away.
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  • Day6

    A week in Vienna

    January 6, 2015 in Austria ⋅ ☀️ 3 °C

    Vienna is a truly beautiful city, even in the middle of winter when the trees are bare, the waters are frozen and a grey coloured sky dominates the days, the buildings just shine. I've never been a building person, and probably still am not. But slowly I can see the differences in styles, cities, eras and wealth.

    So we arrived in Vienna with a bang. We're staying at the same hotel I stayed in last time and are looking forward to eat Vienna schnitzel.

    We began by exploring the city square. Mum, Dan and I climbed up St Stephen's Cathedral in the morning, and we took a tourist bus around the city for the rest of the day.

    Sunday is a rest day and not a whole lot is open. It’s amazing how these great bit capitals can shut down on Sundays and over religious holidays. I like it. While Dan read his book, Mum, Dad and I spent the roaming on the bus tour seeing different sites of Vienna.

    We stopped off at the Danube River and walked across all three rivers. Intrigued by a fun looking building on the way back we stopped here for lunch, it was the 'kunst haus wien' museum. They had fantastic pizza things and so-so desserts. For the first time in my life I had left my phone behind.

    We got back to the hotel and I was fiddling in my pockets to find my room key, when I realised that I couldn’t find my phone. A quick tip out of my bag indicated that it was definitely not here and could only have been in the gift shop of the museum. My only thought was that my new bankcard was in my phone and that would be an enormous pain!

    Luckily the people at the shop had seen it and put it away safely. A quick trip back to the museum in a taxi proved very fruitful! Lesson learnt!

    Monday saw us take an adventure into Slovakia to visit Bratislava. When we returned we did a little drinking tour of all the pubs I had previously or wanted to visit. Mum and I had a divine goulash in one restaurant, while another didn’t live it to my memories of last time. It was rainy and I got excited when it started snowing in the wee hours of the morning, when we were back at the hotel. Maybe it will snow for us yet!.

    Tuesday was our last official day here and together. I finally got to take mum to Demel’s. It’s this famous pastry shop and chocolaterie in Vienna. They have the most wonderful window displays and make the best hot chocolate. Mum and I got a sit in the back (which can be rare) and enjoyed a hot chocolate each and an apple strudel. The best we had tasted so far.

    After earlier exploring in the day mum and I discovered a lovely restaurant with schnitzels. So this evening we headed back with the family to grab a table. These were the biggest schnitzels I had ever seen! The place was massive, multi storey and went on for ages. We had wine and watched dad eat an entrée, while the rest of us saved space for our schnitzel. It was a fantastic way to have our last meal together.

    Today is Wednesday and the time is now counting down before we have to depart. I am little nervous today. Trying not to think about having to say goodbye. We began our day by enjoying the delicious breakfast at Hotel Austria once more, before going for one last walk around Vienna. We walked past the Albertina museum and I saw that they had an exhibition on Monet.

    I mainly wanted to see it because it was mentioned so often in Midnight in Paris. So I left the family to finish exploring whilst I went in and observed some art. When I returned we went back at the hotel to pack up and for me to finish writing my cards that mum was taking home.

    Whilst in Vienna, we of course made a bar a local haunt for ourselves. We had been frequenting the bar down from our hotel called Café-Restaurant Vienna. There was a young lady that called, Elief, who served us most nights and we got to know her very well. We went in there for our last meal and as we were paying she gave us a box of chocolates, and said 'thank you for being such great customers, there aren’t many people like you out there’. We gave her a big hug and tip and took a photo with her. Forever remembered!!

    Just before we headed down to dinner it had started snowing and we had a heavy downfall during dinner. It was, I think, the first snowfall of the year and it was just beautiful. Such a magical way to end out time together our on White Christmas Snow holiday. Mum and I spent the next hour roaming the city square taking as many photos of the snow as possible. Playing like children. Snow is so magical.

    And just like that it was all over. I took a family photo and then waved goodbye. Not as many tears this time and feeling more determined to fix London’s relationship and mine and make this year count. As it was there now remained only 358 days left of the year, and with only 1-year left of my visa, every day counts!
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  • Day10

    Budapest oh Budapest

    January 10, 2015 in Hungary ⋅ 🌧 15 °C

    Ah Budapest! The story of two towns side by side separated by the blue Danube. One side is Buda the other is Pest.

    I arrived in Budapest Friday lunchtime, catching my train just in time. I'm staying in a hostel that is quite central and located just down from the Danube. The nightclub downstairs is a pain at night time, but the ensuite in our room is amazing and the whole place has a general quality feel about it.

    Shortly after arriving at my hostel I struck up a conversation with an Australian who has been backing his way through Europe over the winter. He's been in Budapest for a week now and was giving me tips on where to go and what to see.

    I accompanied him to lunch at his favourite spot beside out hotel. It was a chain shop as I later realised, but still very good food. He looked a bit like David Wenham.

    This afternoon I headed to St Stephen's Basilica for the start of the communism walking tour.

    Penned to give us insight into what life was like before, during and after the Iron Curtain. We were given a history of Budpest, how their roles came about in both world wars and stories of actions Hungarians took.

    Starting at the Basilica and walked by Szabadsįg Square where a new, controversial memorial statue to German occupation was recently installed, there is many signs of protesting all along the statue. We saw a bunker here which was secretly built for the army to escape through.

    The US Embassy is here and the former Stock Exchange, as well as a monument now known as the Liberty statue of Freedom Statue. It was originally built to thank the Soviet Union for helping liberate occupation in WWII. However, sentiments changed during the communist era, and the statue inscriptions have since changed to now read: "To the memory of those all who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary".

    From here we proceeded to the State of Imre Nagy. Imre Nagy was the Prime Minister of Hungary on two occasions, including during the failed Hungarian Revolution in 1956. After Soviet forces regained control of Hungary, Nagy was stood for trial and was executed and buried in an unmarked grave. His name was banned during the Communist era as he represented freedom.

    After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Imre Nagy was reburied and a statue erected in his name. He stands on a bridge facing the West, and when you walk over it, you walk from the East to the West. Very symbolic. Our guide let us all walk over the bridge on our way towards Parliament.

    Parliament Square, known as Kossuth Lajos Square, is the home of Hungarian Parliament. There are three main buildings in this area. In 1880 an International competition was held to source a design for the new Parliament Building for Hungary. Imre Steindl, a Hungarian designer, emerged as the winner and work on the building began in 1885, making it one of Europe’s oldest legislative buildings.

    The judgers were so impressed with second and third place that these designs were also commissioned and were built facing the Parliament building. Today they house the Ethnographic Museum and the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture. Parliament House is the tallest building in Budapest and remains this way on purpose, as nothing should be higher then Government (or something along those lines). Apparently when the Soviet Army moved in they put a giant red cross a top of its highest steeple.

    Parliament Square backs on to the Danube and this is where we finish our tour. By now, it is well and truly nightfall and our guide points out all of the important royal buildings and bridges lit up this evening. It’s a clear cool sky evening.

    She told us a story about how Heineken almost had to change the colour of their star, as it was law up until 2013 that the public use of symbols of totalitarian power was not allowed. The symbols included the hammer and sickle, the Nazi swastika, and the red five-pointed star. Apparently during the Cold War Heineken did change the colour of their star white with a red border.

    Our tour has come to an end and how group has shrunk considerably given the temperature we’ve been in for the last 3 hours. I always embark on these tours thinking that the cold won’t bother me that much. But today I was well and truly frozen and had to hide in a supermarket till I could think properly again and de-frost.

    With my phone advising that it felt like -8 (!!!!!) I said goodbye to the guide and found my way to the nearest appealing restaurant. Here I enjoyed a most delicious cheese and mushroom filo pastry and wine before taking a stroll back along the Danube towards my hostel. Taking in the most beautiful views around me.

    Full Moon Design Hostel

    Walking Tour
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  • Day10

    Budapest - a cultural experience

    January 10, 2015 in Hungary ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Today was all about fitting in as many cultural experiences as possible. With only one real day to explore Budapest I needed to get moving early.

    My main goal was to reach the Szechenyi Baths and Pools, one of the most famous baths in Budapest.

    So I was up early and on my way. My roommate had visited the baths earlier in the week and recommended I walk down the most famous shopping strip, Andrassy Avenue. They call it Champs Elysees of the East due to the beautiful buildings and Wide Street. So that is where I headed.

    The street was just beautiful. The buildings, currently looking like that had lost the shine of their former glory, had taken on new characteristics and now told a new story. Every one was unique and individual.

    At the end of the Avenue I am greeted with Hero's Square and just like the public squares in Paris, it is huge! On one side is the Museum of Fine Arts, while on the other is the Hall of Art. In the centre of the square is a giant statue featuring the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars as well as the tomb of the unknown solider.

    Behind the square is the City Park and currently a giant ice skating rink. Further on there is a castle, and I take the time to wander through here and the gardens beyond. In winter everything takes on a different kind of beautiful. There were frozen ponds, trees missing leaves, and shades of purples and reds. It was really lovely.

    After embracing the nature I finally make my way towards the Szechenyi Baths and Pools. I pay the entrance fee and head into the changing rooms before walking through the internal baths and finally to the outside ones. This is where the really hot baths are and the ones that are used in all of the images.

    Having not thought this through entirely, I just have my small towel, thongs and togs on to roam around in…. in -3 degree weather! Man have I acclimatised so well! haha

    I spent a good while swimming in between the two major pools outside before going inside and floating around in different temperatures. I tried the steam room downstairs and then dived into the very cold pool to cool off.

    In one of the outside pools there was a small whirlpool in the centre. This was great fun! Just floating on by as the water swished you around. But all good things must come to an end. So I waved goodbye to the Turkish Baths and headed back out towards my hostel.

    I roamed round some streets trying to find a restaurant that had been recommended, but in the end my hunger took over and I settled for what looked like a not too touristy restaurant / bar. I enjoyed Goulash, which is more watery here then the Goulash in Austria, and an interest pancake dessert that was lit on fire when served.

    After lunch I went to a massive shopping centre in the hopes of purchasing some bargains for the year a head. Spending money on clothing is not high on my list of priorities, but it was time for some new attire.

    With my new purchases safely tucked away in my suitcase I showered and headed out for the night. There was a jazz bar I had seen earlier in the day and wanted to visit it this evening. I had dinner in a humus café, where everything is humus based. It was awesome! The alcohol here is so cheap and so good.

    The jazz bar was celebrating its 3rd birthday this evening and was putting on an array of musical performances, not all jazz for the night. There was no room left in the concert area when I arrived so I took a glass of wine and sat down to listen in the bar.

    I eventually made my way into the concert area and watched a really interesting performance. I think I just left before the Australians I had made friends with arrived. They got the end of the performance I had been watching and enjoyed the cake I saw being brought out earlier. Oh timing, timing, timing!

    I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Budapest. It was nice to meet other fellow travellers who were interested in learning and exploring and sharing their experiences. And even though its still 2 degrees it feels like summer is coming soon … in a few months haha, and this makes me happy.

    My journey back to London was quite an experience. After booking a ride on the airport transfer bus. I wanted in the rain for 40 mins to go back inside and be told they had missed me. After waiting a further 30 mins in the rain I went back inside and asked for a refund and for them to book a taxi.

    My taxi arrived and we had to do a deal between Hungarian coin and British Pounds, as I just didn’t have enough on me. I made it to the airport, got through customers, passport control and checking my bag in with 20 mins to spare before I had to board - just enough time to enjoy a quick bite.

    And lucky I had that quick bite, just as we had all boarded the plane and the doors locked the pilot advised us that due to extreme wind at Heathrow we would be waiting on the tarmac for 2 hours. TWO HOURS! Having been slightly cocky that I had yet had a poor travel experience, I guess today was my day. So I settled back into my chair and read a book whilst we passed the time.

    When we eventually did take off, we enjoyed some beautiful sights over Hungary and Austria before lifting into the clouds. We enjoyed an additional 30 mins fly around Heathrow before we eventually landed, and I got to enjoy a 1-hour train ride back to London in peak hour tourist time with my bag. It was a very grounding journey indeed.

    Well London I am back. We have roughly 12 months left together before I must return home. We’ve had a rocky time last year, but 2015 feels good. It feels like it’s going to be a great one, don’t let me down! Let’s do this!
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  • Day19

    Ballet - Swan Lake

    January 19, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☁️ 6 °C

    Having never been to the ballet before I've always had these great ideas of what watching the ballet must be like. So elegant, so beautiful. For some reason I really like dancers. I love how they are so fit, yet look like they fly effortlessly through the air.

    Today Britt and I attended our first ever ballet and we went straight to the top with Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House. The only knowledge of the story I had was bit and pieces from watching Swan Lake the cartoon movie with my cousins when I was younger.

    It was just exquisite. The dancers moved so effortlessly, they were glorious in flight and had the most beautiful costumes and dance sequences. Accompanied solely by a well crafted live orchestra the performance carried on for almost 3 hours with 3 interval breaks throughout.

    My description cannot encompass the beautiful dancing we saw, but I can highly, highly recommend it!

    Look Up:
    Swan Lake http://www.ballet.org.uk/whats-on/swan-lake/
    Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Rkx-gZW13I
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  • Day22

    Voting Day

    January 22, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 4 °C

    Today I finally got to do something that I've been looking forward to going since I left home - vote overseas!

    Several weeks ago Campbell Newman called the state election and today was the second day that pooling booths had been opened in London.

    Off I went at lunch time to Queensland House. We got taken up to a medium sized room with 3 polling booths on the left side and a giant official looking box and table on the right.

    We filled out our details, went to the booth, put our form in the box and left. We were shown up and shown down the stairs. All very official.

    I went up with a couple who were very serious about the matter. The gentleman even interrupted my conversation with the lady to discuss the positioning of candidates.

    I was just excited to be there. The Labour Party were the only ones who had dropped off their 'how to vote' cards. I guess there's something to be said for organisation.

    Bucket list: vote while overseas - check!
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  • Day24

    LOCO London Comedy Film Festival

    January 24, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☀️ 7 °C

    This weekend I volunteered at the London comedy film festival. It's a 4 Day event which previews lots of upcoming new comedy films plus a few classics all throughout London, with the BFI Southbank being its base.

    On Wednesday night I attended the launch party at a bar called topolski. It was mainly an industry catch up really but it was cool to get a peak into a different world.

    On Saturday night I was stationed at the BFI southbank and on Sunday at the Lexi, a cinema in Kendal Rise, near me.

    Saturday night was the big night of the festival with a number of big movies having their premier running simultaneously. The movie that won the festival award was SuperBob and had a number of well know faces in the audience including Ricky Gervais.

    My role was to hand out questionnaires, clean up rooms & prepare them for the pre-launch parties and set up the bar for the post event party. I blew up lots of balloons!

    At the end of my shift I went wandering along Waterloo looking for somewhere to eat when, whilst looking at an Indian menu this lady walking by said 'oh that looks a bit dire I wouldn't try that', making reference to the lack of people. She turned and pointed to a pub down the road 'the hope & anchor, try that. It looks closed but go in, sit at the bar and try the duck'. Before I had time to turn back and say thanks she was gone.

    So off I went to this pub, was sat at a shared table, ordered the duck and struck up a conversation with a french couple who were out celebrating their one year wedding anniversary. We had such a wonderful time, we chatted about everything from Australia, paris, the French country side & good countries for food. It was probably the highlight of my weekend and ins if the best things about travelling solo.

    On Sunday I worked at small cinema in Kendal Rise called The Lexi. Its run by volunteers and I think all of their profits, or a large portion, go to a charity. They have a cool revolving gallery on the side and a big cinema, with comfy lounge chairs, cushions and a cool light fixture.

    We set up the food table and the quizzes before people arrived. As thus was the final event, and a lot more laid back we were able to enjoy the food and drink, participate in the game and watch the movie. It was a lovely way yo spend a Sunday afternoon.

    I've been looking forward to this festival, back to doing something in a field I am pursuing.

    To look up:
    London Comedy Film Festival http://locofilmfestival.com/
    Lexi Cinema https://thelexicinema.co.uk/
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  • Day26

    Australia Day

    January 26, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 8 °C

    It's Australia Day!! One of my favourite times of the year to be an Australian

    Last year I'd just landed in London and was feeling pretty low, so I watched the men's final of the Australian open and drank yellowtail haha.

    This year is much different!

    Mum bought me a supply of Australian food over at Christmas including pencils, napkins and bunting and I had already prepped my work place for the party we would be having.

    I laid out my spread out and Sarah (a honorary Australian) put up my bunting. Rose got right into the spirit and printed out a selection of famous Australians and decorated our area with them.

    For the day (and were) we indulged in:
    Tim Tams
    Mint slice biscuits
    Red frogs
    Snakes alive

    It was a glorious few days!!

    Australia Day night I went up to the rooftop of the Queen of Horton bar. They had a giant tee pee set up with a massive BBQ in the middle and wood chips on the floor. It was kind of like being outside :)

    Happy Australia Day!!
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