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Archive for the ‘England’ Category

Well I’ve just had my six month anniversary at a full time job.

Well it had to happen some day right?

After the USA, university, teaching in Thailand, adventures in SE Asia and working in Australia’s Outback, here I am. Back in London, currently living a few streets down from where I was born. Talk about a full circle.

But (here comes the cheesy lines…) this is just another chapter of an adventure right? Thanks goodness I work for a travel company. I’d say I’m not done racking up the air miles just yet.

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Back to the Nest

After my first year of university in 2005, when I was 18, I went back to the parents house for a summer of enjoying myself, and working over time at the local BBQ restaurant. Since then, I was back for Thanksgivings, Christmas, and a few other random visits, but it stopped being my main ‘home.’ Until this summer happened. The problem with traveling for two years after graduation is that it gives you no chance to find yourself a solid home. Not being in the same country for more than a few months makes that pretty difficult… Surprise surprise.

So one thing came in handy – while I was off exploring the lands Down Under, my parents moved back to London to a flat with an extra bedroom. Success.

What has six months living back with mum and dad been like? Well, to be honest…not as bad as I thought it would be. Might be something to do with the fact that I still spend half the week staying elsewhere… But I give them their space, and I get my space so it works out right?

People always think heading back to the parents home as an adult is a bad thing, but hey – turns out it’s not so bad after all. For now.

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STA Travel shows me a lot of love. Through STA Travel Buzz they promote this blog, they take me on amazing trips through London, and they organise monthly events.

I was asked to reminisce about all the ways I’ve used them over the years.

I first used the STA offices in 2007 when I took a backpacking trip around Europe. I went to their offices where I bought my Euro Rail pass and my Euro Tunnel tickets along with my travel insurance. I got a pretty good deal, plus having the Rail pass was a huge weight off my shoulders – it was nice to be able to travel around without having to continually hand over cash every few days. On top of all that, I was able to talk to someone about what was actually a realistic trip for me – where I could go, how long would I need, how would I get there. Just like any traveling trip, nothing went exactly as planned, but it calmed a lot of my worries being able to talk to someone who actually knew what they were talking about!

After that I used them again when my three good friends and I took a trip to Barcelona, Marrakech and Madrid. They figured out the cheapest route for us (turned out it was actually cheaper to go to Madrid, then down to Marrakech and back into Spain to hit Barcelona) which helped us out a ton.

After that I finished off university and headed to Asia on my own wind (sorry STA…) but it wouldn’t be long before I came crawling back! If you’re an avid reader of this blog, you’ll know already that I am one of the very lucky £10 Poms now enjoying the sunshine in Australia. When I got that ticket, I found out about STA Travel Buzz and the wonderful Cam who set me up as one of her STA Explorers. Before I headed to Australia I managed to sort out an Australian bank account and tax number, again, all through STA. What legends.

They’ve got a lot of great staff there and they’re out to help the young and restless on their travels…where ever that may be!

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So November the 14th rolled around. Ten days until I leave. Hmmm should probably sort myself out and maybe see a few people before I disappear. Right. Let’s go.

Day One: A trip to The Photographers’ Gallery in London with Tom before heading to the Apple Store. I love the Apple Store – so many pretty things. So many things I can’t afford. But I still got seen by a lovely Genius who fixed all the little bugs on my Mac and bought a World Traveller Kit which is AWESOME. Okay, a tiny overreaction, but it lets me charge my iPod (and my laptop if I switch the plug) anywhere in the WORLD! So basically it’s a box that comes with all the little plug ins to switch in the white block thing. But I was excited. After dealing with plugging in adapters on top of adapters to find the right combination, it’s pretty thrilling. Then we headed to Bizarros for a really nice Italian dinner near home. We were going to the new Moroccan place for it’s opening, but overcrowded buffet and eating while standing up wasn’t our idea of a good meal. Day One: check.

Day Two: Sunday lunch with Johanna and Tamsin at Pearl Liang. My very late discovery and probably one of my favourite restaurants these days. Yummy Dim Sum and super cheap. Perfect.

Three: My last English Fish ‘n Chips!! Ok, it ended up not being QUITE my last, but certainly my last one from a greasy take away soaked in vinegar and tartare sauce. Sooo good. I can’t resist a good English chippie!

Day Four, November 17th – Dinner at Las Iguanas and rather expensive cocktails with the lovely Nims. I’ll miss that girl. Can always be trusted to come out for a good drink and a chinwag.

Wednesday, the 18th – Off to La Porte Des Indes with my godparents who are nowadays in possession of all my worldly belongings that didn’t fit in my backpack.

Day Six – My last day at Black Tomato! Although they’ll be using my talents while I’m Down Under. Good company, good internship, and good people. Then I headed into East London to another late find and another favourite restaurant – Lahore. REALLY good food (try the pork chops: simply mouthwatering).

Day Seven – The Big One. Leaving drinks. I randomly chose Thai Square in Trafalgar Square as the meeting point. It ended up being pretty successful although we were just about the only non-Asian’s in the place, but that was no reason to not enjoy ourselves and we certainly did. Lots of people made it out including my lovely ex-housemate Hannah, my original London friends (two of whom have headed off to Thailand, so you can read about their trip here plus if you’re looking to get some good, cheap Thai shirts and accessories imported, or want some bespoke artwork and furniture designed by two great people, Sophie and Claudia are the girls to talk to!) along with Tom and Miguel (the suave one).

Day Seven/Eight – My leaving drinks and the following day all kind of blend into one since my head never hit a pillow in between. After (thankfully) grabbing a night bus home from Thai Square, Tom and I were home for….ten minutes? Then it was off to Liverpool Street Station where we accidentally bought First Class tickets on the Stansted Express. Oops. We traveled in style to the airport and grabbed the VERY early flight to Berlin!

Four days until I leave. To be continued.

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Well, it’s official. In one week I will be boarding a plane headed to Sydney via Bangkok, on a one way ticket.

It’s hard to really get my head around it all. The fact that I haven’t started packing at all probably helps with that.

Last weekend I managed to head up to Glasgow to see my lovely family one more time before I leave the hemisphere. I realised that having spent the last 12 years of my life in a different continent, whether it was North America, Asia or Australasia, my family have gotten older (and wiser?) and I haven’t been as close and in touch with them as I would like. My ‘baby’ cousin Lucy is 12 years old which seems impossible, my older cousin Martin is married (I was lucky enough to make it to the wedding), and Raymond is in his last year of uni and getting ready to go around the world with his girlfriend.

As excited as I am to head Down Under, it’s definitely going to be hard being so far away yet again. On top of that, I’ll be leaving an amazing home, with the best neighbours I could have asked for, and a job that is the closest to perfect I’ve come so far (I basically get to do this – travel writing – all day, what could be better?).

So here it goes. A week of manic running around and seeing all the faces I’ll miss before I walk through the gate at Heathrow.

That’s my sentimental post of the week. The next one will be more upbeat as I’ll be recounting what is sure to be a fantastic week of celebration and farewell. First stop – a nice little dinner with the one and only Nims at Las Iguanas. As long as I figure out how to get there in the next two hours…

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If you’re going to visit London, you’d be missing out if you didn’t try to hit up at least one West End show. There are few places where it gets as good as this. New York City is the obvious other choice with plenty of high profile celebs grabbing the title roles. But unless you’ve got another eight hours to spend on a plane, head to Covent Garden for just as many pap-worthy shining stars and plenty of red carpets.

Last week I managed to hit two note-worthy performances: one old and one new.

A couple of years ago, I saw a movie that I loved, written specifically for the fantastic actress, Jane Horrocks, who played the title role. So as you may have guessed, I hit up the new stage version of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice. Starring Diana Vickers, an ex X Factor finalist who was, I have to say, brilliant. I’ll admit, I don’t know her music although have since clicked on a few old X Factor clips and have yet to think any less of her. It takes a pretty good singer to sound believable while impersonating several other iconic belters (I’m talking the likes of Marilyn Monroe, and Edith Piaf) and creating your own original voice at the same time.

The movie is great and the stage play was no less, although the focus on characters was a little different, but since when did any book/movie/play exactly follow the original story line, right?

I’m not usually one for plays, I’m a musical girl. If that sounds like you too, then Little Voice is still for you. Yes, it’s a play, there’s lots of talking and no synchronized dancing, but the great story and cast are more than enjoyable to watch, and Diana’s vocal performance fills that little musical-loving hole in my heart.

Next, I couldn’t help but get my music fix at what has become a modern-classic. Avenue Q. It took me four years to get around to it, but I finally go to see the adult version of Sesame Street. I learnt the alphabet from Sesame Street, and if I was still four years old I would have learnt all about the birds and the bees from Avenue Q. So to speak. More like… how everyone is a little bit racist, sex is on everyone’s mind (all the time) and we all watch porn on the internet. Even if you don’t admit it. You know you’ve been a little bit curious at least once before. Don’t lie. I know you did it.

There’s something that just makes me warm inside about watching puppets and humans interact like it’s no big deal and then breaking out into intricate dance routines as they sing about how much life sucks. Perfect.

I love the West End.

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Apologies for any problems viewing this page. For unknown reasons, formatting has been rather stubborn shall we say…

Last Wednesday, I planned to meet up with four friends: two of my London pals and two girls who came into my life during my travels in Asia: Laura, was only involved for a single night on Koh Pha Ngan, but is one of the few who I’ve managed to stay in touch with, the other is Claudia, who, if you’ve been a regular reader of this blog will be a familiar name to you. But I couldn’t resist when what could have been a small, quiet night began rolling downhill and picking up more and more people as it went. It started with Sophie (one of the London pals) messaging our ‘usual’ Wednesday night drinks group on Facebook:

Sophie 12 October at 18:17 Reply

Hello this wednesday we are headed to cha cha moon just off carnaby street for some gorgeous food! We will meet outside at 6.30pm, then head to the john snow pub for 7.30pm!

Lots of love xx

Then I confirmed plans with my two traveling friends, Laura and Claudia; which grew to be Laura, Claudia, Claire, and eventually Emily.

Marianne McPhee 13 October at 09:37
You girls still up for tomorrow? Does Cha Cha Moon (just off Carnaby Street) at 6:30 work? Hope so! See you soon!
Claudia 13 October at 10:36 Reply
yup, def still up for it and sure that is cool beans for me! see you then! xxx
Laura 13 October at 13:38 Reply
Change of location and cuisine… gosh we’re CRAZY. I’ll be there as soon as I can….
Claire is coming as well… I think. I’m SO HUNGRY xxx
Then my friend Chris, who I only know through STA Travel Buzz, announced his presence in London that night on Twitter:
Curiouscheese: on the train to London now… @alice_walkabout @fillingthepages @statravelbuzz drinks later tonight?! X
Since Cha Cha Moon was clearly becoming the place to be, I passed along the news:
FillingThePages: @curiouscheese @statravelbuzz @alice_walkabout What time? Meeting people 4 dinner @ Cha Cha Moon – lots of traveling peeps, can meet there?
Lucky for me, Alice picked it up:
alice_walkabout: @FillingThePages i may well do that, thanks for the invite @statravelbuzz @curiouscheese you up for it? x
Finally, less than two hours before meeting time, my mobile phone began vibrating with a message from Miguel (that suave Portuguese neighbour I’ve mentioned before):
Miguel: I’m meeting Jess at 7 for dinner on Goodge Street, want to join?
Me: I’m meeting friends at Cha Cha Moon around 6:30, come there instead?
Miguel: Ok…I am meeting jess in oxford circus tube station at 7pm and we will meet u there..k?
So I extended the message to Miguel’s housemates:
Me: Meeting at Cha Cha Moon at 6:30pm
Tom: See you there!
So a dinner with four lovely ladies, turned into a meet up of 13 people from all different walks of life. And not once was a word spoken between myself and any of them. All I needed was Facebook, Twitter and a mobile phone.
Not one person at the table knew everybody else there and the evening was spent enjoying great (and cheap!) food at Cha Cha Moon and a few pints at the John Snow Pub. It was a simple night, but sometimes the simplest of things can make for the best memories. Now three of us are headed to Australia, two are off to Thailand, one is aiming for Canada, another for the USA. A rare night that I thought deserved it’s own entry.

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