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  • Day343

    My final trip to London

    December 9, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 🌙 10 °C

    Well my final few days in London has been spent with those who made a great impact and whom I'll miss greatly when I return down under.

    In true style I have managed to cram in as much as possible. I spent the weeks before trying to think of that final spot or thing to see or do that would encompass the journey, but in the end the four days covered everything of my two years.

    I flew in on Sunday lunchtime thinking I'd have plenty of time to make it to my late bottomless brunch breakfast at 1:30pm. But alas I got grilled one final time about my visa and passport and reasons for being here!

    Jumping on the train I rushed to Flesh & Buns, which was located in Covent Garden. I was meeting Nicky, Nat and Chloe for a glorious bottomless brunch! It takes place over 2 hours in which you are served copious amounts of alcohol and food.

    We began our brunch with a cocktail Bellini on arrival and Japanese nibbles on the table like Edamame beans. We then chose between Prosecco, Red or White wine for our drink of the day and proceed to select as many of the small dishes as we liked. We chose a main each – buns, and when we had had our fill they brought out dessert - one of which was a berry crème Brule, it was amazing!

    Covent garden is one of my favourite places and was my first place I explored when I arrived in London. It was where I saw my very first play, Coriolanus at the Donmar Warehouse and had my first meal, which was at the Earlham Street Clubhouse, a pizza and cocktail bar. I have always enjoyed walking through Covent Garden, especially in the early morning (like 9am) on the weekend when the shops were just starting to open and the tourists had yet to make it out of bed. I had spent many a day and night adventuring around here. As it was the first place I visited, it was appropriate that it be the first place for my last time.

    As our waiter advised that we had now gone past our allocated 2 hours and we needed to vacate the table, the girls and I took one last selfie out the front of the restaurant before waving goodbye – the first of many this week.

    Chloe and I swagged towards Holborn where we caught the central line home, ready to watch the next episode of First Dates. Day 1 was over.

    Monday

    Today I took a walk along Oxford Circus, ducking into all of the little streets, reminiscing over all of the places I'd temped, cafes I'd hid in on days I was low, lunch places I’d explored and adventures I’d had. The amount of times I had traipsed through Oxford Street, Carnaby Street, up Seven Dials and across to Covent Garden seemed endless.

    After cruising past the 1 pound café one last time I headed towards Mile End to meet Louise for lunch. She took me to her favourite Chinese restaurant that was cheap and good. We were the only ones in here and it was all decked out in Christmas celebrations including Christmas crackers. Louise had never had a cracker before and I basked in the glory if grinch about yo skis her how it worked, inducted her into the paper hat and interesting joke haha

    We had a great afternoon discussing our past year. From here we headed back to mile end and into a cafe she liked. It was cosy and warm with giant pots of tea and dry cake lol. I was helping Louise with her final assignment for the term and proofing her report. As the cafe closed around us we headed back to her apartment to finish reading and say goodbye!

    I didn't have time to be too sad as I was off to the next goodbye! I rushed home showered & changed and headed to Waterloo station to meet Marian. We were going to try and find the hidden bar behind a bookshelf in the BFI Southbank.

    After roaming around and asking several attendants who told us it was closed we found the entrance to the bar, which was sadly closed. So off we headed across the bridge to a boat to see if any has drinks happening tonight.

    We did find one, which allowed us to buy prosecco and cheese, a staple of our past two years, and sit up on the deck overlooking the London eye and Big Ben. When everything was drunk and eaten we walked back to the Southbank BFI for red wine and chicken wings and a final fiesta.

    Tuesday

    I decided today that I need to pack up the apartment today. Tonight I was going out for final drinks with the TMP crew, so figured packing hungover wasn't an option. I also was waiting for dad's present to arrive, it was due at 1pm.

    So after a lazy morning I pulled all of my belongings into our living rooms and began the process and deciding what would stay and what would go. I weighed the bag and panicked when it said it was over 30kgs, but I think that was a misread.

    By the time I was due to leave my parcel still hadn't arrived and worryingly I received an email saying it had only just been dispatched!

    But off I went taking one last swing through Carnaby street before heading to Hudson's for a final drink with the team. They came down in waves, all overworked and sick. They even brought me my final ascent calendar that was left in my desk!! Which James insisted that we eat before the night ended.

    Eventually they all headed home, it was a Tuesday night after all. Left standing was Sarah, RLR and myself. We finished with a meal deal from hungry jack's, a final hug and into black taxis we went! Thanks TMP and grad team, you've been wonderful! I'll miss our nights in Hudson's.

    Wednesday

    I of course woke up with a hangover on Wednesday morning - signs of a great night had! Chloe was on a late start so we had breakfast together before saying see you later. Hopefully I see her in oz one day. A great Roomie!

    After doing one final pack and wash I headed into the city to shit down my accounts with Barclays - present still not in sight.

    I went through the new Tottenham court rias station which was snazzy! For whole of my two years this station has been under development and only on Monday had it re-opened! It was beautiful.

    Barclays was not as easy as I thought it would be. I had used my card the day before and the payments hadn't yet transferred, which meant that the everyday account has to stay open. I could withdraw all the money and shit the savings one down, but the other would remain open until the final payment went through. Right, not ideal but I had a Harry Potter exhibition to see!!

    Off I headed up to Godge street and into a small gallery. The two graphic designers who were responsible for all 8 movies had curated a collection of their finest pieces, it was fantastic! Everything from the Hogwarts letter, the maurader's map, text books, the tri wizard tournament and newspaper, just to name a few. Perfect! Harry Potter to say farewell.

    I walked back past all of the cafes and restaurants I'd stopped in for lunch or taken the team in outings. Then up Tottenham court road and past the office one last time, waving up at the team just in case they saw.

    It was then back on the central line and home to deal with the parcel. After seeing that the post had tried to deliver it while I was out I tried to ring the post office and find the can - you can't ring the post office in London - go figure!

    I tried calling the supplier and in the end I can Not on the high street, the place I bought it. Explained that is bought this mug, paid additional to have it delivered yesterday, they tried delivering it today while I was out, my bank accounts were closing and I was flying out of the country! Oh the drama! Haha

    She apologised and said to leave the parcel, if it wasn't collected it would return to thrust warehouse and they'll give me a refund. I give up explaining that my account was closing. The refund was there by the time I reached Dubai and my bank account remained open.

    Mum rang and I took in the moment, in 24 hours I'll be home. I packed my bag and suited up. Thanks to the winter I was able to watch the sun set over the London skyline one last time. It was perfect!

    I left a card for Chloe and boots I couldn't through them away, we'd been through too much and I didn't want to press end on the journey.

    I walked through the gardens one last time, up the high street and into the central line. I changed at Oxford circus for the Victoria line and out to Victoria station where I changed one last time on to the Gatwick express, with no return ticket.

    I checked in and sat up in Jamie Oliver's bar, toasting a prosecco and wine final hurrah. Goodbye London you've been a blast! I'll miss you xx
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  • Day327

    London plays

    November 23, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 6 °C

    This year I've been lucky to see some amazing plays. I worked with a couple of girls at work who loved theatre as much as I did and we would often book plays together or update each other on what we had seen or were planning on seeing.

    The Ruling Class
    12 February
    Trafalgar Studios
    James McAvoy
    Loved it! So good
    Marian
    http://www.timeout.com/london/theatre/the-ruling-class

    Kill Me Now
    20 February
    Park Theatre
    The story was quite intense for a Friday night theatre session, but good to see. This theatre was in my very first neighbourhood
    https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/kill-me-now

    A View from the Bridge
    2 March
    Wyndham's Theatre - sat on the stage!
    Mark Strong
    Loved it. Weird story though. Final scene was epic
    http://www.youngvic.org/whats-on/a-view-from-the-bridge

    Jersey Boys
    25 March
    Piccadilly Theatre
    Saw this with Britt in conjunction with a TimeOut offer. Probably the worst I saw. The theatre was run down with holes in the chairs. We were in the nose bleed section which sucked, there was a drunk couple in front of us that sucked on a bottle of wine the whole time. The story was quite good, but the whole experience was not pleasant. My only mainstream one this year (for me), definitely sticking to the off beat plays.

    Clarence Darrow
    29 March
    Old Vic Theatre
    Kevin Spacey
    This was amazing! First up I only paid 12 pounds for a seat in the front row, at one point I was 30 cm away from the actor. Secondly it was the Old Vic and thirdly it was Kevin Spacey in his one man show and final performance as artist director of the Old Vic. A great play!
    http://www.oldvictheatre.com/whats-on/2015/clarence-darrow-2/

    American Buffalo
    16 April
    Wyndham's Theatre - nose bleed section, it was terrible!
    Damien Lewis John goodman
    Not a fan. Probably a combination of crappy seats, but it just didn't spark my excitement. The stage was beautiful though.
    http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2015/apr/27/american-buffalo-review-damian-lewis-mamet-wyndhams-theatre

    Everyman
    25 April
    Olivier Theatre, National Theatre
    Chiwetel Ejiofor
    Written by the national poet. It was all writtne in poetry. Really well constructed, great dance sequences but I left feeling gloomy about the world at the end
    http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/everyman

    Man and Superman
    2 May
    National theatre
    Ralph Finenes
    Amazing! It was the longest play I saw, 3.5 hours.
    http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/man-and-superman

    Impromptu Pay

    The Winters Tale
    21 October
    Garrick theatre
    Dame Judi Dench, Kenneth Brahman
    My final play and I got to the great Judi Dench & Wallander! It wasn't the best I've seen, a big too long and not enough Dench, but still what a way to end it all
    http://www.branaghtheatre.com/the-winters-tale/

    Hamlet
    23 November
    Edinburgh Festival Hall - NT live screening
    Benedict Cumberbatch
    Really good. I'm sure it would've been great live. As the American woman beside me said what a great first Hamlet to see. It will always be your bench mark now. What a wonderful way to think that these plays and experiences won't end just there and then, but live on forever, influencing my cultural experiences.
    http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk/productions/ntlout10-hamlet
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  • Day327

    A weekend in Edinburgh

    November 23, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 6 °C

    After an epic week travelling the highlands I am back in Edinburgh, feeling a bit sad to be on my own again, but looking forward to a weekend here.

    On Saturday morning I met up ____ and we head up to see a few iconic Edinburgh things before she flew back to London. We began by climbing up to the Edinburgh Castle and taking in the view, from the outside of course. It was a beautiful blue-sky day and freezing cold with the wind whipping all around us.

    From here we headed to the farmers mark Rich told us about, where I bought some short bread and tablet and debated on buying all of the yummy foods, many of which were proudly vegan. Our final stop of our quick tour of Edinburgh was visiting the famous cemetery where Thomas riddle aka Lord Voldermort resides, and of course the inspiration for Professor Mcgonagall's name.

    We said our goodbyes and Shaunna headed for the airport, while I headed to the meeting spot of the local Sandeman’s walking tour, a solid 2.5 hours in the cold! Things we saw: Edinburgh Castle, St Giles’ Cathedral, The Royal Mile, New & Old Towns, Mercat Cross, Greyfrairs Kirkyard (cemetery), Scott Monument, Princes Street Gardens, Grassmarket, Site of witch burnings, the original Hogwarts, William Wallace and the Stone of Destiny, National Museum, the mound, Tron Kirk, The real Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and the Scottish Enlightenment.

    Walking around you can truly see how much inspiration J.K Rowling got from living here. It’s awesome.

    In the afternoon I took some time out in my hostel and watched the semi finals of the ATP World Tour in London, BBC iPlayer I will miss you very much. As night fell, at 4pm, I went out for a walk about town and see if I could purchase tickets for the Hamlet screening on Monday. I walked up to Festival Hall and saw this recommended Indian restaurant. It was buffet style, cheap and delicious. In the end I spent the evening sitting by the fire in my hostel drinking wine.

    Sunday was a slow start but I began by walking up and down Victoria Street, it was the inspiration for Diagon Alley. It has some fantastic little boutique shops, including a beautiful cheese monger, leather goods, several whiskey outlets. Rich recommended Oink hog roast sandwiches for lunch. It’s takeaway only and a massive turning pig sits in the front window, the line was out the door every day.

    I settled on a lovely looking French restaurant with a good lunch menu instead. After lunch I made my way to the west end in search of a gin bar I had discovered, it didn’t open until 5pm, but I was satisfied that I’d found it, as this was the second time over the weekend I’d been in search.

    I then took a walk along varies different roads taking me down petit side streets, past huge houses and into main thoroughfares and Christmas parties. As the sun started to set the sky light up so I raced back towards the Royal Mile and up to the castle to take pictures of it setting over the town. It was truly beautiful, great pinks and oranges and yellows all mixing as the inky blue sky descended upon the town.

    On Monday it was raining so I visited the Writer’s museum learning about three famous authors including the guy who wrote Dr Jekell and Mr Hyde and Treasure Island. It was very interesting. But these days when I look back at history and these places I wonder what would’ve been of the women authors had they been given a place in history.

    When I finished here I walked into new town to find a shop called Social Bite, it was a bit like a Pret but 1 in 4 of the staff members there used to be homeless, 100% of the profits (it says) are donated to charities to help homeless people and the menu was created by a Michelin starred chef. The shelves were almost empty, clearly its popular and one needs to visit much earlier then 12:30.

    As my much desired pie was not available I left promising to return tomorrow before I left. Instead I looked up famous pie shops in Edinburgh and headed towards one recommended on TripAdvisor. It looked fairly dodgy, but as there were lots of people in the shop I ventured in and thoroughly enjoyed myself a local Scottish pie.

    To end my day I visited the National Gallery and joined their daily 3pm tour, which looks at a different section of the museum every day. It was great and I’d definitely recommend it for you if want a different take on history.

    This evening I am going to see the NT live screening of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet. I um’ed and ah’ed about seeing this for a while now, but decided as I had the time in Edinburgh and I’d missed out on the Edinburgh Festivals and there didn’t seem to be anything else on stage wise to see that this was my moment. And it was cheaper here then in London haha.

    It was really good and well worth it. I’m sure seeing it live and the beautiful stage would’ve been great! I had a chat with a wonderful lady who spoke about all the Hamlets she had seen. It made me excited to see more Hamlets and to be able to start comparing performances and different directors interpretations of the play.

    On Tuesday morning I packed up and headed straight to the Social Bite café to get my pie, peas and mash. It was good to give back to the community. I’d be interested to know how their finances work behind the scenes, but alas a thought for another day. My next destination was calling and a flight to catch. Goodbye Scotland, Hello Norway!

    Edinburgh Walking Tour
    http://www.newedinburghtours.com/daily-tours/new-edinburgh-free-tour.html

    Social Bite
    http://social-bite.co.uk/

    Where I stayed
    Castle Rock Hostel - 15 Johnston Terrace, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

    This place feels like your classic backpackers, where the staff lives there and it just feels a bit like someone's home. The place is massive! It's well located and has everything on hand to hire or borrow. They have things happening every night, so book in early and enjoy! PS. This is part of the MacBackpackers group, they have hotels all around Scotland where you stay if you're on the tour, or you can stop in stay any other time. Bed - comfortable, beside lamp, rooms are massive Lockers - little ones that come with keys to use Bathroom - unisex bathrooms and showers, plenty about to use Breakfast - 3-4 pounds I think, there was cereal, toast, fruit, juices, I had my own so can't comment Kitchen - really well equipped, huge!! There are technically 2 kitchens side by side, loads of fridges, boxes to keep food in if you're staying for a while, big tables to sit at and loads of cooking equipment Lounge - This was probably the best part of the hostel, there are 5 lounge areas divided as follows: the movie room (they play movies back to back from 6pm, there are big lounge chairs in here), the main area (this is a double storey section with a mini kitchen hot drinks and a sink, a big table to sit at, a pool table, a lounge area, lots of seats up stairs too, and lots of flyers on this to do. I'd see it a bit like a common room at uni), the posh room (has a piano and real fire in it, it's quieter then outside), techno room (had 2 computers in there to use, plus epic chairs), finally the chill out room ( you couldn't take tech gadgets or shoes in here haha, but there were musical instruments) Computer - yes 2 plus printing Reception - 24 hours, had everything you could need to hire, plus you could leave any tech gadgets with them and they'd charge them up Heaters - worked well Wifi - pretty god Staff - really friendly Location - right in the centre of old town, looks up at the Edinburgh Castle, its perfect! Alcohol - you can bring on site Washing - it's a couple of pounds and you get it back dry & folded the next day Tea / Coffee / hot chocolate - free, available all the time
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  • Day324

    Scottish Highland Tour - Day 5

    November 20, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 5 °C

    Sadly, today is the final day of our tour and it was the most touristy of our days this week. I am very sad that the tour is over. It's been a wonderful, relaxed week, just watching the amazing scenery, learning about Scotland and hanging out with some great people.

    But, before we get too sad, we've still got a whole day of adventures ahead! We pack up and leave Fort William heading towards the Harry Potter bridge!!

    It's official name is the Glenfinnan viaduct and it is on one side, while the other is occupied by the Bonnie Prince Charlie monument. In the summer you can actually ride the train aka the Hogwarts Express, but it's closed in the winter.

    Our day is spent mostly driving, so from here we head towards this old pub for lunch. It's known for all of the stuffed animals inside.

    On our way we stop by an old castle, Inverlochy Castle. And then drive past where they filmed Hagrid's Hut and stop off at a popular car park which looks down into Glencoe. The view was spectacular!!

    Old story - people dying

    From here we drive through ... It's where they filmed the Scottish scenes in Skyfall. As per the movies the landscape was stunning. I felt like we were this little ant cruising our way across this wide open mountainous landscape.

    You only really took in how huge the mountains were when you realised that the small white spec is actually a fully grown sheep! Haha

    After lunch we head towards .... It's the castle where they filmed one of the Monty Python movies, plus it's used in filing Outlander or something like that.

    Then it was on to the Deanston distillery. I've never really has whiskey and to be fair I probably won't drink it again this trip. It was a cool distillery that used to be a wool mill way back.

    They are on off the grid distillery and recycle / reuse everything. It was really interesting and the tasting not too bad.

    We were then Edinburgh bound, with the sun almost set Rich set about telling us the great Scottish fight for independence and who William Wallace really was.

    Most of us were staying at the Castle Rock hostel Friday night. So after settling in we met up again and headed off with the conveniently arranged hostel group going to the Christmas markets, which just opened.

    It was cold, but pretty awesome. They had German food for sale, drink bars, Christmas crafts on show, an ice skating rink and a Santa land. All the usually suspects.

    It was a great way to end a fantastic week.

    http://www.visitscotland.com/about/arts-culture/films/skyfall

    Tour
    http://macbackpackers.com/tour/5_day_skye_and_highland_fling/itinerary
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  • Day323

    Scottish highland tour - day 4

    November 19, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 7 °C

    So we waved goodbye to beautiful Isle of Skye and head down the West Coast of Scotland. Our first stop of the day was at the Eeliean Donan Castle, this castle was famously used in the movie Made of Honor with Patrick Dempsey. Apparently, it's someones actual home and its all modern on the inside. We took lots of pictures and visited the tourist centre for a cuppa.

    Afterwards, we took a big drive up to the 5 Sister of Kintail and to take in a magnificent view down into the valley. The story goes that there were seven sisters who the local farmer needed to have married. Visiting brothers from Ireland met the sisters and fell in love with the youngest ones. The father was not happy to have his youngest married before the oldest.

    The brothers promised that they had more brothers in Ireland and would send them straight over if they could leave together with the girls. The father agreed and off the younger sisters went, while the others waited. And waited they did, until weeks turned into months and months into years.

    Eventually the father turned to the local wizard or witch and asked how he could preserve his daughters' beauty until they could marry, the wizard turned them into stone to wait their husbands. They're still waiting.

    We climbed (drove) down the other side of the mountain to reach the village of Glenelg where we could see the old brochs. These are suggested to have been built 2000 years ago and they used to be houses. There was a half complete one that we could walk through and a picture showed what ever level would've been like.

    It was nice. We then went back over the mountain and headed towards Spean bridge wool mill for lunch. It's odd being the only tour group around. We haven't seen anyone else on tour all week. Its fab! I definitely feel like we're on our own private tour.

    At this point we had a choice either see the Harry Potter bridge (the one Harry and Ron fly over in book 2 when looking for the train to Hogwarts) or go on a hike in full knowledge that it will rain and we will get wet.

    After some convincing we decided to go on the hike in Glen Nevis to see the Steele Falls and it was the best decision ever! We got as far as we could in the bus, and then got out and walked. Once we got off the road we were on a proper hike. Jumping over waterfalls, climbing over rocks, sloshing in muddy paths and getting drench. It was awesome!

    The water was forcefully coming down off the mountain, the river was swollen and the streams, now in full flow, were gushing everywhere. It was amazing. We were making our way towards Steele Falls where we could walk across a tight rope bridge.

    As we came around the corner we were greeted with a most beautiful view, making our hike 100% worth it. Apparently they filmed the village for Braveheart here. After having ever Scottish guide tells us how incorrect Braveheart is, I don't think could see it now.

    But anyways, we got closer to the falls and in the summer they all climb over this ropey bridge and swim around in the falls. Today, its too bloody cold and we are fast running out of sunlight. So we all quickly walk across the bridge, or some of us go as far as to take a good scary picture and then head back to the safety of the side haha.

    And then scramble back abroad the bus, soaking wet once again. It was a brilliant way to spend our final day really. In the summer, I realize that they would spend more time hiking, which would be a whole lot of fun. But thats always something for next time.

    Tonight we're staying in the town of Fort William as the usual town the tour stay in is closed for the winter. The whole town! crazy!

    Our hostel is lovely, the host is just wonderful, nothing is a problem. We warm up and head into town for dinner. The main street is a cute little village with hiking shops everywhere! We have dinner in a nice pub and I try out a few of the local gins. We try to get some drinks from the bottle shop to take back to the hostel, but everywhere shuts at 9pm and for the first time all week we are finished with dinner later then 9!

    We eventually find a RSL type thing for one more drink before heading home to bed and to download the new Adele album at 12:01am.

    Tour
    http://macbackpackers.com/tour/5_day_skye_and_highland_fling/itinerary

    Where I stayed
    Fort William Backpackers - Alma Road, Fort William, United Kingdom

    We stayed here for 1 night as part of the MacBackpackers tour. The rooms were big with big comfy beds, there was a fully equipped kitchen, dining around, big lounge room with fire and guitar, several bathrooms and an outdoor area where they put on big fires if it hasn't been raining. We were located in the center of town really, just up on a hill and a 10 min walk down int the main street. Our host was so lovely, she had everything we asked for and nothing was a problem! Breakfast in the morning for 2 pounds.
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  • Day322

    Scottish highlands - day 3

    November 18, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 🌧 9 °C

    Today we spent the whole day on the Isle of Skye, our weather conditions were predicted to be cyclonic! Whoop. And it didn't lie, as we headed out from the hostel the wind and rain lashed our little bus - lovely.

    The aim of today is to see as much of the island as possible. I think Rich said that the sea was only 60 miles maximum from any point on the island. So we headed towards on area of mountains called Glen Sligachan, the red mountain and the black mountain, also known as Cuillin.

    Rich tells us is a folklore story about a Scottish giant (the black mountain) who was the scariest giant around until people started talking about this Irish giant that people were really afraid of. So he headed over to Ireland to fight this giant.

    When he got there he learnt that she (the red mountain giant) was a woman, but that didn't stop them from commencing battle and fighting for 3 days. On day 3 the Irish giant's daughter wanted them to stop, so after seeking advice from sonnet, made them a tasty dish that thad wonderful smells and made the giants realise that they had been fighting for days with no food. So they took a break.

    It was at this point at they realize that they really liked each other and decided to become lovers and marry. But the end of the story, just as the bus pulled up near a bridge, I couldn't remember what the point of the story was haha. Anyway, it had stopped raining temporarily so we all jumped out to take some quick snaps of the red and black mountains as we could see the rain cloud coming towards it.

    We then travelled to the west coast to Dunvegan where we looked at on old castle and went down to Loch Dunvegan to try and spot some seals. The seals were too far way on a small island for us to really see, but we had a most beautiful landscape around us and we took lots of pictures here. It was just stunning!

    From here we drove down the road a little bit and decided to take a walk out to a beach called 'Coral Beach'. It was a take us an hour to get out there, view and get back and the rain was beginning again. But our adventurous spirit won out and off we all headed with laughter and excitement.

    As the rain lashed at us, coming in on diagonal force we marched on through the countryside, crossing small streams that had started to form and not slip on the muddy trail that were now becoming.

    Over the horizon we saw it this beautiful coral beach. The 'sand' looked as white as anything we could've had at home and the water on the coast line was a beautiful color. Our photos of ourselves on the beach suggest something entirely different.

    We then went further and headed up a small hill, trying not to be blown over it and stood on the top to watch all the world around us. It was just magical. We hid down on side of the hill for a reprieve before commending our journey back to the other side! By the time we reached the bus, the rain and wind had all but died down leaving us soaking wet, but feeling like epic adventurers.

    After changing into our spare clothes we drove down the road and went into a little husband and wife bakery for pies, sausage rolls and cake. It was so cheap!! P1.80 for a sausage roll with sauce and a giant slice of cake - amazing!

    We then drove down into the town of Portree, where we later hoped to have the best fish and chips around, apparently, before heading up to see the Old Man of Starr rock, down to the Kilt rock waterfall and finishing on top at Quirang.

    These sites were all beautiful, I cannot get over the stunning landscape. Apparently they filmed a few movies here as well, but use a bit of CGI to enhance the magic.

    After stopping for multiple photo opportunities we piled back into the bus and headed down to Pontree only to find out that our fish and chip shop didn't open for another 30 mins. Not content to wait we headed back to ...... picked up wine and chocolate on the way before stopping in at a fish and chip shop near our hostel.

    It was pouring down rain and we had to protect the hot goods with our coats before climbing on board the bus. Back at the hostel we settled in for an evening around the fire, fish and chips, wine, whiskey and whiskey liquoior tasting. This has been one of the best days so fast and an absolutely wonderful evening.

    Things we missed:
    we were going to see the famous fairy pools today, but Rich said that we'd have to climb over proper rivers to get there, we'd get soaked and the fairy pools would be a brown color because of all of the rain they've had to far. Something for next time I guess.

    Where I stayed
    Skye Backpackers Hostel - Village Green, Kyleakin, United Kingdom

    Fantastic place! We stayed here for 2 nights as part of the MacBackpackers 5 day highland fling tour. We were in a separate house from the main hostel, apparently only the MacBackpackers tours stay here. It was an old victorian house right on the water and only ourselves and the other staff stayed in it. The highlight was the lounge room with a fire in the middle. We spent most nights in there enjoying the warmth, a few drinks and some stories. There is a full equipped kitchen, breakfast is included, there's a dining room and a few showers and bathrooms. It feels like someones home.
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  • Day321

    Scottish highlands - day 2

    November 17, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 7 °C

    Today we have been driving, stopping, walking, photographing and repeating. Relaxed is how I feel. It feels like the 8 of us are a group of friends who've hired a personal guide. Our tour is incredibly chilled out. We run to our own timetable and stay as long or as short as we like in each spot. Rich gives us ideas and sometimes we give him some.

    This morning started with a trip to the grocery store to buy lunch and food for dinner as everything would be shut when we arrived at the Isle of Skye this is evening.

    Our first stop of the day, after we'd loaded up was to the Culloden visitor and site of the Culloden Battle. We spent an hour here walking through the self-guided information centre, which gave insight to both the English and Scottish stories. We then got to walk out on the battlefield with audio guides guiding us through the day and site. It was very interesting. Slowly all the people and all the years are starting to filter in about the Scottish history.

    From here we drove to Rogie Falls and walked through the forest to the falls to try and see salmon. It was a beautiful spot. I liked walking through the forest area. We came out onto a wooden bridge that crossed to the other side. Standing on the bridge we all intensely looked on to see the salmon, two people apparently saw some jump, but the rest of us were not so lucky.

    The water was a dark brown frothy mess, it flowed strongly after all of the rain the highlands had recently had. Although Rich assured us the water was fine to drink and swim in, it looked the colour of Guinness and frothed like it too haha.

    While eating lunch on the road we passed a heard of deer and stopped to take pictures. It was awesome! These great big animals just standing on the side of the road, but it wasn't long before they packed up and moved on. As did we, we were making our way towards Beinn Eighe for a hike and a sit by the lake.

    It was beautiful. The hike highlighted how unfit most of us appeared to be haha, and how fit Richard was getting. The view down into the Loch was beautiful and we took some fantastic group shots up and down the mountain. I’ve started noticing that we aren’t running into any other guides or tourists in general, which is awesome! And is probably what is making this not feel like a tour.

    The daylight was slipping away so we boarded back on the bus heading towards the Isle of Skye and we would be driving through, which Rich described as, the most scenery in Scotland. So I grabbed the bottle of red from my bag, poured myself a glass and sat back to enjoy the view.

    He wasn’t kidding; it was spectacular what we saw! We drove across vast lands, around deep lochs and through valleys where once huge glaciers tore through during the ice age. We would’ve looked like this tiny ant cruising along. It was beautiful.

    We stopped many places to take pictures along the way including Loch Maree, and Loch Torridon and the ruins of Strome Castle. Loch Torridon took my breath away (how clichéd) it was just stunning! Words can’t describe. We looked down into this valley, this loch and it stretched as far as the eye could see. With the sun setting in the background, it was everything you could want on a tour.

    The ruins of Strome Castle are where we watched the sun disappear over day 2 of our adventure. It was perched on this little hillside and we looked down into the loch and out to the Isle of Skye. We took some great group shots in the archway as the sun slipped away, a perfect ending to a wonderful day.

    To complete our trio of animals for the day we also spotted some Hairy Coo the local highland cows. They were very cute and all wolly. We stopped by for a few quick pics with the big guys before heading on once more.

    For the next two evenings we are staying in the village of Kyleakin in our own house away from the main hostel. As we’re the only group on tour this week, it’s only us in the house. It’s awesome! It has it’s own lounge room and fireplace where we spend the evening relaxing. We are located right on the harbour and watch the boats sail in and out in the daytime.

    This evening a couple of us head over to the local pub for dinner. It was a bit of a disappointment with a lack of atmosphere and pretty much no one in there. But the fish and chips were fantastic! And I would return there for that dish alone.

    I am thoroughly enjoying this trip!

    Where I stayed
    Skye Backpackers Hostel - Village Green, Kyleakin, United Kingdom

    Fantastic place! We stayed here for 2 nights as part of the MacBackpackers 5 day highland fling tour. We were in a separate house from the main hostel, apparently only the MacBackpackers tours stay here. It was an old victorian house right on the water and only ourselves and the other staff stayed in it. The highlight was the lounge room with a fire in the middle. We spent most nights in there enjoying the warmth, a few drinks and some stories. There is a full equipped kitchen, breakfast is included, there's a dining room and a few showers and bathrooms. It feels like someones home.
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  • Day320

    Scottish highlands tour - day 1

    November 16, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 🌧 5 °C

    So, I'm spending the next 5 days on tour with Mac backpackers exploring the Scottish highlands and Isle of Skye. I'm not sure what to expect, but am really looking forward to it.

    I arrived in Edinburgh last night with an hour left of sunlight and rain, so I headed to my hostel and chilled. But headed out later in search of food and drink.

    What I learn as the week goes on is that MacBackpackers own all of the hostels we stay in, including this one. On reflection I suspect our hostel was some kind of castle back in the day. It's massive and each room is oddly shaped with no consistency.

    There are 5 function rooms here, the groovey lounge were guitars lay around and all techno gadgets are banned. The posh room, which is semi quiet with a piano in the corner and fancy lounge chairs - lots of people are watching movies on their laptops here. There is the small literary room, which hosts 2 share computers and high backed wooden chairs that look regal.

    Next is the giant living space with a pool table, lounge chairs and a second storey. It also has a giant table in the middle, like Royal times. Then there is the movie room where films are played continually from 6pm and finally the double kitchen.

    I kicked around here until it was a reasonable time for bed.

    We left Edinburgh at around 8am on Monday morning. There are 9 of us in total, 7Aussies, 1 Thai / American, 1 Canadian, and our Scottish bus driver Richard. We leave Edinburgh with Rich giving us an interesting history of the town, plus some misleading directions to J.K. Rowling's house.

    Apparently it takes 3.5 hours drive to our destination, but it will take us 7, an insight to all the places we stop at.

    Our first port of call is at Pitlochry, a small village where we roam around getting some lunch, while some have a need to buy waterproof gear. We were due for rain and snow! I bought a lovely chicken pie from a local butchers - Ł1.42!!!

    We drive along towards an old battle ground which is now a bridge / hike area. But first off we stop to take some pictures as we've sighted the first snow and its agri at dime glorious mountains.

    Once the pics are snapped we head along to Pass of killiekranine where we take a 30 min walk through the forest.

    Afterwards we drive along further into the national park, Rich is taking us to Loch morlich, which looks like the beach. It is super cold out side and I feel like it's sleeting or snowing on us in patchs. However, there is sand and a lone duck to keep us company. After using 5 of our allocated 10 minutes were all back in the bus, aside from the Canadian who is loving it.

    We the head towards Balnuran clava kernes and learn about "Clava Cairns or the Prehistoric Burial Cairns of Bulnuaran of Clava are a group of three Bronze Age cairns located near Inverness. A hugely significant and exceptionally well preserved prehistoric site, Clava Cairns is a fantastic example of the distant history of Highland Scotland, dating back about 4,000 years.

    The cemetery was used in two periods. At around 2000 BC a row of large cairns was built, three of which can still be seen today. A thousand years later the cemetery was reused and new burials were placed in some of the existing cairns and three smaller monuments were built including a 'kerb cairn'.

    Traces of a smaller cemetery can also be seen at Milton of Clava, a short distance up the valley to the west. The cairns at Balnuaran of Clava extended along a gravel terrace raised above the River Nairn. Our guide also spoke about how the sun shadows line up to each of the stones and there is this intricate design .. but I can't remember it all haha."

    After this prehistoric adventure we headed off to see Nessy!

    Tonight we are staying in a town called Inverness. Our hostel over looks the town. We take a walk before dinner and spot a pub on fire, which turns out to get the place we were going to see music at later on.

    For dinner we visit the local pub and we all try a bit of haggis. While pretending not to know what was in it, I thought it tasted pretty good.

    I bale on the new live music venue in favour of acetal along the river. Important grudges and monuments are lit up in the French colours. Friday's events are never far from mind.

    I return to the hostel for sleep.

    Tour
    http://macbackpackers.com/tour/5_day_skye_and_highland_fling/itinerary
    Uu
    https://www.visitscotland.com/info/see-do/clava-cairns-p245611

    Where I stayed
    Inverness Student Hotel - 8 Culduthel Road, Inverness, United Kingdom

    Hostel feels like the classic backpackers style one, where the staff live there. There is a lovely lounge room with a fire, a smaller lounge room no fire, a dining area and a fully equipped kitchen. The rooms are a bit small, but comfortable and the showers and toilets are shared by both sexes. The staff were really friendly. We were in the center of town and easily walked to the local pubs and stuff. The village is quite big and there is a lovely walk along the river.
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  • Day313

    Last working week in London

    November 9, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Today is the start of my final working week in London. As long as I can remember my plan was always to finish school, go to uni, work a bit for experience and money and then head overseas; dreaming of jobs of a lifetime and experiences you could only achieve in a big city.

    When this decision was coming to fruition two years ago and I was faced with the reality of giving up a job I had only just started, that I insanely loved in order to pursue a dream I spent a great deal of time wondering if was doing the right thing, and have spent many more hours considering the same thing once I arrived.

    But, in the end it was the right decision, except when I think of how I could've been at the Cowboys first grand final, then it will always be the wrong one! haha

    I see the last 2 years as an assignment; to come, learn, experience, push boundaries, try new 'hats of life' on and see what works for me. I feel like the past 2 years has been 10 years worth of learning squashed into 24 months. It has trigged renewed passion in chasing a career, not just a job, it has shown me what I really want to do, what I excel in and given me the permission to accept what I don't like or what I'm not the best at and that, that is ok.

    In fact, it's more then ok. As a quote I once read said, something like, once you know your limits you can push past them. I know what I'm really good at, what I'm not good at and what I don't like and not be sorry for it. I can work on them, find someone else to do those jobs, or find an alternative path.

    And I definitely feel like I've come full circle. When I got my first temp role in London I was just about in tears on the phone to mum walking up to this building. I was so scared, I had no confidence, I was so taken aback by myself. When I left home I could've conquered the moon. Where had that person gone?

    I remember writing in my journal that I felt like I had this giant black hole in my chest and everything disappeared into it. It was like I got on the plane here and everything I knew about myself disappeared. Nothing could fix it. I would wake up most mornings not being able to eat breakfast awaiting the dreaded phone call from the temp agency. Knowing full well I needed them to ring to give me work to live here, but oh the fears I had!

    In the end I was only there for 6 weeks. I worked for some really cool companies, got to meet some lovely people, and found that temping was a great way to get a feel for the place as an employee without having to actually get a role there. I look back on those jobs with rose coloured glasses and 'fond' memories.

    Now I waltz into work like I own the place. I feel like me before I left home, but now I have all of these experiences and 'war stories' under my belt to backup my confidence.

    I think taking 5 months off to travel gave me the space to reflect on what I've achieved in these last 2 years. I got to stand back and see that I was at the top of the mountain. Somehow in all the nerves, excitement, downs and ups I had climbed that beast and didn't even realise it.

    Working in London has been great. I have got to do a lot of things that can only be done in a big city. Because a big city has the people power to do things on a large scale, to attract big clients and big ideas.

    But now I'm ready to go home. Back to a support system, to a culture I know and love, to explore a new city in my own country with a renewed energy to strive for the big goals in my life. My assignment has come to a close. It's been fantastic and I'm pencilling in the next phase now - Canada before I'm 30!
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  • Day306

    Spooky London

    November 2, 2015 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    London is currently in the fog, it's really spooky and cool. Yesterday I woke up and looking out my window I couldn't see a thing, just the tall tree with yellow leaves that were slowly falling to the ground. It was like this for most of the day.

    In the evening, 4pm, I met Claire near London Bridge for a coffee at a new cafe that caused controversy this week as it had to fix it's sign, it was called Fuckoffee haha. They did an alright hot chocolate and custard tart, although it could've been heated up.

    After leaving Claire I decided to take a walk along the Thames as I was still looking for somewhere to have a drink for my farewell drinks with my friends. And it was the best thing I did. The whole of the Thames was covered in this fog You could barely see London Bridge and the (Borris office) was all covered.

    All along the Thames there were just sparks of bright lights peaking out behind the fog. It felt like Old Victorian London or Sweeney Todd London, only because the movies always have it in such fog. I was half expecting to see a horse and carriage bundle on down Liverpool Street.

    It was definitely the talk of the town for the next few days.
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