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There are a lot of great things about Sydney. Great nightlife, busy streets, and all that comes with it. But of course you can’t really talk about Sydney without mentioning the beaches. I’d say three of the most famous beaches are the three I’ve visited over the last week: Bondi, Coogee and Manly.

Last week I hit Bondi Beach with a few friends to spend some time on Sydney’s most famous strip of sand. It’s not huge, especially after you see Manly, but it’s big enough and it’s PACKED mostly with the likes of us, i.e. backpackers, and surfing aficionados, i.e. not us… The surf is KILLER. There’s probably some cool surfer dude term for that, but I wouldn’t know…ahhh one day. I did attempt swimming for about three minutes. I went out until the water hit my thighs (so you know, ten feet from shore) before the waves were already creeping up and over my head, sucking me under. I’m a strong enough swimmer to handle that, but my bikini is not, and after a couple of minutes I decided that was enough indecent exposure and headed back to shore. Not to self: buy more secure bathing suits…

Craig did rent a surf board and gave it a go, but I think after a handful of near death experiences the board was kindly returned to its shop. I think we all need lessons…

I’ll most likely be headed back to Bondi Beach on Christmas day so you’ll hear more about it soon.

Coogee Beach was a brief visit for a free barbeque with Oz Party Bus! I took a walk around the beach talking about the greatness of the Oz Party Christmas Eve Cruise and their bi-weekly party bus that rides around a few of Sydney’s bars each Thursday and Saturday. I found a lot of Aussies on Coogee. Okay, sounds crazy – Australians on an Australian beach?! What?! But honestly, after Bondi Backpacker Heaven, it was actually strange coming across so many locals.

Beach number three: Manly. My favourite beach. Maybe because it’s on the north side of Sydney (the side I also live on) or maybe because it really is the nicest. It’s a little confusing because there are rather small unimpressive beaches next to Manly Wharf but walk through town and you find a large, soft sand beach. Bigger than Coogee and Bondi and in a nicer part of town. The waves here are much more manageable, the atmosphere is more catered towards families, and you don’t trip over beer bottles and cigarette butts on your way to the water’s edge. Not that Bondi or Manly are unpleasant – I promise they’re still fun. In fact, Bondi is the best beach for accessibility the the centre of Sydney, and for social events as it is where you’ll find most of the working holidayers around here. But for chilled out afternoon lying on the sand. Manly is the way to go.

My next stop is Melbourne for a few days!

Update: I am working! At the moment I have some promotions work which means I get to walk the streets, let myself into random office buildings, and walk around the shops all day, and on top of it all they send me on business trips to Melbourne! Not bad. I’ll be spending a lot of the time working, but I’ll do what I can to explore the city and report back.

Until then, Happy Holidays!

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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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It arrived. Finally. November 24th: the date I took off from London on my way to Sydney, Australia on a ticket that cost me £10, or I like to think of it as one thousand pennies.

On August 3rd, almost four months ago, I got in a queue outside STA’s London Victoria office where I stayed until two days later, Wednesday, August 5th to become one of 150 people to be named the new ‘£10 Poms.’ And here I am. Writing to you from a home in Lane Cove, Sydney, where I’ve been settling in for the past five days and getting ready to start this new chapter of my traveling.

So last Tuesday, I boarded my Qantas flight and made myself as comfortable as I could. Unforunately, £10 only got me Economy Class (shocking really…), and I also somehow managed to land a seat in the very last row of the plane. Not ideal, but I made it work. Several movies and a short nap later we were in Bangkok where we were ordered off the plane to walk through the airport, go through security again, and re-board at a new gate minus some original passengers and plus a few new people making the trip from Thailand down to Sydney. Several more movies and another nap later and I woke up to my first Australian sunrise. I don’t think any of this was real until then.

Before I knew it, I was on the ground, backpack in tow, being driven to Lane Cove by the lovely Nad, Johanna and baby Kamran who, along with Nad’s brother Sal and India, the golden lab, were kind enough to host me during my previous stay in Sydney back in May (well, Kamran wasn’t around back then…).

In the last few days I’ve spent a lot of time around the house trying to adjust (the jet lag is killer, my days tend to start around 4:30 in the morning…) and organising my plan of attack which right now just entails finding a job as soon as possible.

Last Saturday I was cordially invited to an American Thanksgiving meal by a few old friends from BU who now call Sydney home. About thirty of us drank, ate and made ourselves thankful by the beach in Double Bay. Not your typical American Thanksgiving scene, but I wasn’t complaining about eating turkey and pumpkin pie with Sydney Harbour as a backdrop. It could definitely be a lot worse.

This week is official job hunt week. Cross your fingers that next time I write here I’ll be employed… Wish me luck.

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So just before I disappeared Down Under, Tom and I went to explore the German capital. I’ve been to Germany twice but I never managed to get past Munich, so I was glad to finally see this famous city. I didn’t have a blog back when I was backpacking around Europe so I won’t have mentioned them before, but my favourite European tour company is Sandeman’s New Europe. I first discovered them in Amsterdam, where I met Rachel Sandeman – sister of the founder, and fellow Boston University alumni. I loved the tour, and better still, it’s free! Tour guides accept tips at the end of the tour, and the great thing about that is that the tour actually HAS to be good. Bad tour = no money. Plus it means even if you’re really really broke, you can see and learn all about the city and it doesn’t have to cost you a dime. Perfect.

After Amsterdam, I went on the Munich tour BOTH times I visited the city plus the Pub Crawl tours which have never been a disappointment. So of course I tracked them down in Berlin.

Our first day in Berlin was pretty uneventful. We arrived, having only slept on the plane and were told we couldn’t get into our room. Hmm.. I’m still wearing my clothes from Thai Square, I haven’t showered, I haven’t slept. I don’t look or feel good at this point. But there’s nothing to do but go out into Berlin to grab some lunch, unpleasant body odour or not. And so we did. A wander around Museum Island and a club sandwich later, we returned to the hostel and collapsed in the reception for awhile. We were woken from our nap and told we could finally get into our room. Where we slept. Again.

The evening didn’t go to waste though! We dragged ourselves up, showered and put on clothes that didn’t smell like a London club and headed out to dinner and a little music. Tom decided to be as authentic as possible and get a jellied leg of pork. I went with the salmon… Then we went in search of somewhere for a few quiet drinks and found the B Flat club. It’s the perfect place if you’re looking to grab a few cocktails in a slightly hidden bar with fogged up windows and a grand piano. It also helps if you like jazz music. We listened to the sounds of the Diego Pinera Group for a couple of hours before finally calling it a night and collapsing for a very good nights sleep. I should mention that our hostel, City Stay, was great by the way. Perfectly located in the centre of Berlin just by a train station, with a good bar and really nice rooms. I would recommend checking it out.

The next morning, after a false start, we found the Sandeman’s New Berlin Free Tour and walked around the city for almost five hours with Nikolai, our Bulgarian born, American raised, German resident guide. The tour was great if not exhausting, but these tours are always the perfect way to see the city and actually put all the buildings and sites into context. That night it was off to the New Berlin Pub Crawl which started in Zapata. Zapata was exactly how I imagined Berlin bars to be. Dark, graffiti-ed, not unlike an abandoned warehouse with a table tennis table in the middle. Naturally. We moved on to a few other bars with our friends from the Free Tour before we parted ways as they went off to the clubs and we headed home since we were determined to get up the next morning and make good use of our final day.

True to our plans, we were up and off to the Jewish Museum bright(ish) and early(ish). We spent far too much time in the new exhibit which was really interesting, and so unfortunately had to rush a little through the permanent exhibit which was a shame. It’s a very good museum. Then it was off to our Red Berlin tour (also provided by the lovely people at Sandemans) where Paulo took us around some of the lesser known parts of Berlin, as well as some famous sights like the East Side Gallery. We saw a part of what is now called the ‘Death Strip‘ (the space in between the Berlin Wall that stopped anyone from having a hope of jumping across). Paulo had a pretty interesting perspective on everything which was nice. Wasn’t the average talk about how the wall was nothing but terrible and that the opening of the wall is the greatest thing to have happened to Berlin. There’s a lot of different opinions out there and a lot of sides to the story, so it was nice to have a tour guide who appreciated that and maybe opened my eyes a little to what life is really like these days in Berlin.

That night after a way too filling dinner, finding out our train was canceled, and grabbing a taxi just in time, we made it to the airport to make our way back home to London. We arrived at midnight and went straight to packing up the rest of my things to prepare to leave for Sydney the next day….

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STA Travel Buzz

Some of you may know that I teamed up with the lovely folks at STA Travel Buzz and they’ll be following this blog as I go along as well.

You can check out their website where you’ll find blogs about myself and the other ‘Explorers’ to find out where we all are!

My latest appearance is here:

http://www.statravelbuzz.co.uk/marianne-is-leaving-the-country…/

Just more ways to find out what I’m up to!

 

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So I know I haven’t even set foot in Australia yet, but I’ve already been thinking about the next place I want to go. While South America is actually at the top of my list, for now, I’m thinking of trying to head to Senegal next winter if I can. A good friend of mine, Amanda, is currently living there, working for the Peace Corps and has sent me and her other friends and open invitation to visit. Pretty tempting offer I have to say. I’ll keep you updated.

But for now, Amanda needs a bit of help. There are two things you can do to make her life in Senegal easier.

One: e-mail her MP3s. She is dying for some jams to rock to while she rides her bike through the bush into town. If you would like to do this, please e-mail them to me and I will forward them on to her on your behalf. (My contact details are on the ‘Contact’ tab).

Two: Donate a couple of pounds to help her build a well.  She lives in a village of 197 people where she is working to improve the conditions of their health hut in order to try and provide some basic, sanitary care for the people living there, as the closest town is a few hours away by bicycle. She is currently starting to build a well in the hut grounds so that the village has access to clean water.

The well project is only $500 which should hopefully be an easy target to reach. So if you’re looking for a good cause, this is one that wouldn’t otherwise get much attention. Any amount helps if you want to donate.

That’s all, I promise, just thought I’d pass it around and see if I can help out a friend.

You can read more about it and donate in the link below:

http://appropriateprojects.com/node/67

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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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