Back to England

Welcome back my friends, armchair travelers and whoever else you are! After being back to Sydney for 4 whole months I’m finally back on this blog. Lucky for you! I shall continue blogging about this adventure til the very end, bitter or not.

So in the last post, I visited Munich, attended Oktoberfest, got drunk, lost a day, enjoyed my friends’ lovely apartment and had a good old time. From Munich I flew back to London, stayed in a hostel for 2 nights, caught up with Kiem and Wendy for 1 last photo walk. Then my parents came! Wow wee! I went to Heathrow to pick them up, handed them their oyster cards and we took the tube (damn it, now I keep calling it subway) to Kensington where I collected my luggage from my hostel and we moved to a bed and breakfast at Olympia.

We did a few days of sight seeing in London. You know, the usual suspects.

London bridge at night

Downing St, yeah that tiny alley in the middle. (I had no idea it was completely blocked off like that)

Changing of guards ceremony at Buckingham Palace, I want their furry hat, looks so warm!

We actually went into the Buckingham Palace and saw all the public areas. The tickets were damn expensive, but I quite enjoyed it I have to say. The Buckingham Palace from the outside is very plain, the inside is grandeur, but compared to say the Versaille, it is a lot more stately and much less fluffily pretty. If that makes sense? We got to see the Queen’s stables and her many carriages as well, including 1 that was a gift from Australia. No photos were allowed inside most of the palace grounds, so sorry, nothing to show you. I do have film photos of the Versaille back though, but that’s a post on its own.

Then we hired a car, a nice little Hyundai or something which accompanied us on the rest of our European trip. I became quite attached to the car as it became the only stable thing in our lives for the next month, it felt like our house in a way. I suppose it’s just like the way I got really attached to my 38 liter backpack which also felt like my house… Well, that there is up for interpretation by some psychologists.

My parents were actually really impressed with London. Standing at Oxford Circus looking at the grand old buildings, rows upon rows of them, they saw the great political, industrial and financial power that Britain once was. It was good to see it from that perspective, which I hadn’t before.

Before leaving the British isle we did a day trip to see the stonehenge and Bath.

The little black bits to the right are people for a sense of scale. To be honest this photo makes it look a lot more magnificent than it is, the distance and the gloomy clouds help a lot. I didn’t feel anything special even though I really tried and the audio guide really tries to evoke something surreal too… but meh…

Each block of stones weighs several tons, what you see above the soil is only about 1/3 of it. 1 interesting thing was the stone is a warm stone. Not that it’s hot, but it’s not as cold to touch. They had samples of normal stone and stonehenge stone for tourists to feel and true enough the stonehenge stone really isn’t so cold on the skin.

After the stonehenge we went to Bath and had dinner there before returning to London. I really enjoyed Bath and so did my parents. It was very pretty.

Just a pretty picture, look there was even sun for a while!

Hot air balloon!

Driving into Bath was magical. We drove through the English country side, it was evening and the sun was low, we wind through some streets and there it was below us. The rows of pretty sandstone buildings, all uniform and bright in the sun. The hot air balloon bobbing in and out of view. Such a cute and quaint town, we felt instantly relaxed.

The building that houses the Roman bath. Yes, this is what the town is named after. It’s now a fine dining restaurant.

We arrive too late and the bath is already closed for the day, so all we could do is try to gawk from the outside. The wall’s too high so we didn’t get to see the actual bath. But, see those statues in there, they surround what I presume is the bath dug into the ground.

Rows upon rows

Great laneways to explore

Next stop, Dover tunnel! Til next time, stay fit you lot 😀

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Munich – Oktoberfest

I’m pretty sure this will be the last post I do before I return finally. Yes finally, to Sydney. Wow, 9 months, all but over for 3 more nights. Insane to think about really! 1 night here in LA, 1 night on the plane flying to Fiji, 1 night in Fiji and I’ll be in home sweet home. Hello sunshine! I haven’t seen any sun for almost 1 week now and it’s raining cats and dogs here in LA, it’s all driving me bonkers.
Anyhow, onto the real topic today, Munich!
Oh yeah! I went there! I saw, I drank, I conquered. Something like that. I had the most amazing time in Munich, thanks in no small part to my dear friends Iris and Sheloian who lent me their lovely apartment for 8 whole days, while they were in the states themselves. I wasn’t going to stay that long, but I decided to extend since I like the place so much and let me tell you, what an upgrade from hostel dorm rooms to an apartment to myself. Yeah… extending was a good call.
Day 1

Where possible I always start with 1 essential place. The food market. Lucky for me Munich had a daily food market in the city center right by Marianplatz. The center, again lucky for me, was walking distance. I enjoyed the lovely sunny and warm weather thawing myself after Iceland. I was very happy to be in short sleeves and jeans. Very happy!
Marienplatz, the clock does a little dance every hour.

Lots and lots of bike in Munich

Beautiful art deco facade

Candied fruit anyone?

City museum I think it was, it was closed, so I didn’t go

This is when you know you are in Bavaria!

Beer garten in the food market near Marienplatz

I had to cross the river to get to the city, but it was only a pleasant 20 mins stroll

The neighbourhood, so cute with all the pastel coloured apartments

The apartment building, in the middle of a guitar and violin shop

So I walked around, got to know the town, bought food, then went to the supermarket and bought more food and of course beer. Wiessbier, OMG, Franziskaner is my favourite… I’m glad they have it at Lowenbrau in Sydney. And so I cooked and ate… what did you expect me to do? I spent the previous night on some benches in bloody Stansted airport, I was glad enough to be alive!
Fruits! Grapefruits, heirloom tomato, figs and gooseberries.

The balcony, with my dinner, pork chop, salad, red cabbage with a glass of weissbier. I spent a lot of time on this balcony. Isn’t it just the cutest!

Day 2

I went to Duetche Museum, I thought it was a history museum, but it turned out to be a science and technology museum. It was very big, so big in fact, I didn’t have time to see half the things. Many of the exhibits and displays are very old, but nonetheless I enjoyed it and they had English explainations, which helps a lot.
That night was back to the apartment for more cooking and eating. Just 8 hors d’oeuvres… nothing fancy :p
They have everything in this museum and I mean everything.

Urh… factory machines

Real ships

Inside of ships

Model ships

Airplane engines

Rockets

Space suits

Model moon

Lead type

Cameras

More cameras

Back of the museum

Day 3

I walked around the town more. Took Iris’s bicycle out for a ride. I hadn’t been on a bicycle since I was 12, let me just say, it was a challenge. I’m finding that the older I get, the more chicken shit I’m getting. That’s surely not a good thing. But I spend a good hour and half riding around the block. Munich is very safe for bicycles, they have bicycle paths built into the footpath, so you aren’t fighting for space with cars at all. Mums drag a cart or crate with their children in it with their bikes, extremely bike friendly city. I felt fine on the bike on the path, on my own… however when another bike comes my way, I start shaking and have to jump off. Hmm…
Walking is never a problem thankfully

Tree lined path on the side of the river

Interesting to store bikes

Somewhere in the city

Oben poster with real balloons

Painter and his audience and women in drindles!

Inside that building with the clock that dances

Day 4

I finally made it to Oktoberfest! It’s very daunting and I just refused to go on my own. Then Jady kept delaying her arrival so I rang up her friend Romesh who was already in Munich and tagged along with him and his gang.
What a day. One of Romesh’s good friend is French and a gang of his friends came over from Paris, they are a brass band. Yeah. They were great fun!
The beer halls, wow! The Bavarians all dress in their drindles or lederhosens, they all look so cute, the boys and girls! Made both Jady and I want to buy drindles… but then we checked our bra sizes… urh… sorry… won’t work for us Asian girls. Damn! So back to the beer halls. People are dancing and singing standing on the tables while downing their liters and beers and eating their whole roast chicken and pretzles! My my, what a sight!
Beer tent
French brass band/French crazy kids
French man and German man
The avenue and mountains of people
French man, Harry Potter, Romesh, me and I forgot her name
Then the pants started to come off
But they kept playing
Even when they hit the ground
Cute Japanese kid dressed in drindle watching the crazy Frenchmen
Glorious pretzels
Man spotted with the most amazing beard
That what happens when you drink too much beer kids, you fall over each other…
Ok, a little basic background information about Oktoberfest. I suppose most of you don’t know about this, unless you’ve been before, because I certainly didn’t know how it worked til I got there. So Oktoberfest happens each year at the same spot a few subways stops from central Munich. Everybody rides the subway there and away. You can’t get lost, just follow the crowd and you’ll be there in no time, well, that’s a lie, there’s always mountains of people, slow moving crowds, so it takes a little time. But they are all drunk, they sing songs and everybody’s happy! EVERYBODY!
The avenue is a long strip with the fun fair at 1 end, then along the sides of the strip are food stalls, beer halls and beer gardens. Each beer brewery will have a beer hall and a beer garten just outside the hall, each serving their beers. Paulaner is the biggest brand, therefore they have the biggest and most lively hall. Ok hall is a misleading word, these are just giant tents. Wood panels on 4 sides, tent canvas on top, each year before the festival, they come and take days to set it all up and at the end of festival, they take it all down and pack it away for next year. Neat huh!
So you have your beer in the halls or gartens but you can’t take them outside. Each beer hall also serves food, but the menu is limited, if you get to see a menu at all and it’s also more expensive comparing to eating at one of the stalls on the strip.
Beers are served in steiners, 1 liter giant, heavy glasses. Filled with beer, they are quite a work out for your arms. And when you see your waiter come towards your table with 5+ steiners, especially when your waiter is a waitress… then you cheer and give her a good tip! Let me tell you, that’s a sight and she must have big guns!
So it was a drunk and fun day.
Day 5

I went with 2 of Romesh’s friends to the swimming fun fair thingy thingyo… I’m so so sorry, lovely girl and boy, but I’ve forgotten your lovely names u___u Now now, I was very toxicated throughout those few days, yes… blame it on the beer. The swimming galaxy thingy thingyo was actually very fun. It’s a water park with many water slides, everything is galaxy themed, so slides would have crazy lighting in them. I went on all the rides expect 1 I think, it looked too painful. Arh yes, I remember now, the park was in Erdinger, where the wiessbier Erdinger is from.
In the afternoon it was back to Oktoberfest with Romesh and the gang. The Aussie gang. It was so weird hearing all these Aussies. Ello mate, pass me that beer, will ya :p
I was too busy consuming, not much photo taking.
See how tall that ride is?
We went on that thing the next day, crazy!
Fun fair
He was going pretty high
Day 6

Jady finally arrived and look what I got her! “Super dicker something something” The woman assured me it meant “my sweet fatty”, oh well, she’s one wearing the cookie, not me!
Photo from Jady’s camera
Again, too busy consuming, not much photo taking. Oh but look! Flickr logo toffee apples! Jady and I had 1 each, they were yummy.
Boys being interviewed
Bring sexy back!
Oh that day I ate so much food there, like nuts, fairy floss, corn on the cob, lager, weissbier, roast chicken, crazy Bavarian thing cheese eggy pate with made me want to gag half way through. So yet, too much beer and food makes my tummy go crazy! I ended the night puking the toilet, you might recall the facebook status update. Classy way to end the whirlwind fun that was Oktoberfest.
Here’s me devouring a chicken with Jady, pre puking.
Day 7
Jady and I parted ways again after such a short time. Actually… that was the last time I saw her. But it’ll be soon enough before I see her again 🙂 Jady went on to stay with Romesh at the student housing.
I flew to London to meet my parents. I travelled with them for 2 entire months. That was damn tough, but we covered so much ground, both in Europe, American and Canada. I’ll get to blogging those eventually. Eventually.
Weren’t there meant to be 8 days? Hmm… It dissapeared with the beers…

Iceland

From Oslo I flew to London, caught a bus from Gatwick to Heathrow and flew to Iceland via Icelandic air, their service was nice.

I stayed 5 nights in the HI hostel, a little out from the center, but it was a nice hostel, got all the amenities and I met some nice people there. One big problem, I caught bed bugs there, though nothing too bad.

I’ve always wanted to see Iceland, always. I think it’s kind of like Australia to Europeans, it’s so far away, almost mystical, a strange land with strange landscape, Iceland was somewhere I really wanted to see with my own eyes. Jady told me great stories about the place too. With Bjork and Sigur Ros’s strange but wonderful music, I figured it must be something in the air, in the water, something in Iceland that inspires them and perhaps it might inspire me too.

Day 1

Iceland was the 3rd Nordic country I visited, Icelandic the language sounded stronger than German, Swedish and Norwegian, sounds hard and tough and weathered, a bit like their people.

I took the long walk to the center, about 45 minutes, poking my head around the suburban streets. Rejkyavik isn’t so big, but it’s very spread out, to live here, you’d definitely need a car. The center had an interesting council building, I think it was the council building, I can’t quite remember. It had a pond at ground level, several blocks of buildings covered in moss and other unidentifiable growth. Many a ducks were in the pond. Behind the building was an artificial lake, with many more ducks in it.

Those are birds in the sky, not dust on my sensor u___u

I went to the national history museum, learnt more about the Vikings and pre-viking celts and posed a silly self portrait with a Viking helmet and shield and sword. Cheesy, yes, fun, also yes. The museum attendant saw me and offered to take the photo for me, I was too embarrassed and declined.

Say CHEEEESEEE!

Afterwards I walked around the center a bit, saw this how to tie and tie mural. The center is small, nice town, the weather was always gloomy though.

Day 2

I booked a day trip through the hostel called “Fire and Ice”. Indeed it didn’t disappoint, it was fire and ice. It was the best day I had in Iceland, highlight of the trip.

Got picked up at the hostel by a mid aged lady, our guide, in a big 4 wheel drive, picked up a few more guests from other hotels and off we went. In our group was 2 Swedish ladies, an Canadian couple and me. First off we drove to a mountain range about 1.5 hours from Reykjavik. I borrowed some proper hiking shoes, they were a size too small, but they had no others, this turned out quite terrible, I got horrible horrible blisters on both my ankles, they were very painful and took weeks to heal.

Off we went to hike for 2 hours, it drizzled constantly and I shot with the OM2 mostly and didn’t want to get the 5D out much. The 50mm f1.8 ended up with too much water in it, got all fogged up and when it dried it left water marks, shame, it turned out to be a good lens.

We saw so many wonderful things, many bubbling mud holes, lots of steam coming out of everywhere, strong smell of sulfur everywhere. The hike wasn’t easy, many ups and downs, parts where the path is right next to low cliffs, muddy everywhere. They have a joke in Iceland: What do you do if you get lost in a forest in Iceland? Stand up. Iceland has moss and shrubs, no trees. Seeing this extraordinary landscape really does make you understand that the whole of Iceland is just a big chunk of lava. The earth was black, the moss barely clinging on, though they have over 100 varieties of moss in Iceland. Our guide said first there’s moss, the moss turns to mud and other vegetations get their chances then.

Bubble bubble, they make “plop plop” noises too

Our guide and the Swedish ladies

The guide and the Swedish ladies spotted wild blueberries, red blueberries and bilberries. I tried them all, yummy! Blueberries have blue skin but are white inside, but red blueberries were a reddish purple inside, they tasted sweeter.

At the end of our hike we came to 2 natural stream. 1 is cold water melted from the glaciers, 1 is hot water from underground. The 2 streams form into 1 creating the perfect natual bath. Hell, you can even choose your temperature by wadding up or downstream a little. Since there was only 1 guy in the group, we sent him below the hill while we got changed and yelled out to him when we settled comfortably in the stream. We were in there for 20 minutes, wasn’t easy to get out. But when we got out, we didn’t even feel cold naked, the water heated us through and through. By the way, this was Iceland in late summer, early autumn and it was bloody cold!

Hot stream on top,  cold stream on right, bath water on left 😀

Wild cotton

Black earth

Stinky steam everywhere

Me in front of walls of steam

We ate lunch in the car while driving to the next location, ice. I finally changed to hiking shoes my size, put on waterproof pants and a raincoat, laced up spikes to my shoes, got handed an ice pick and we were to hike on a glacier. The glacier is called Langjorkull, it’s the 2nd largest in Iceland and it was beautiful and alive, constantly growing or shrinking and moving about. The crisp sound the spikes made on the glacier, the sheer beauty of the glacier, it was magical, it all made me want to run around and giggle like a little girl. Utterly amazing! Loved it, loved every second on the glacier.

It rained hard, so I shot only with the OM2, which broke the lens. Our guide taught us how to walk on the glacier properly, each step you make, you need to stomp, to make sure the spikes are throughly wedged into the ice so you got enough grip. Walk slowly and stomp hard. Then she made all of us hike up this steep hill, when it’s steep, you use only the front half of your spikes, kicking forward and down, wedging half your shoe into the ice. Once we got onto the hill slowly one by one, then came the hard part. She made us go down the hill. It’s always easier going up a moutain than down, same on ice mountains. To go down you need to get into a sitting position, put your balance on your thighs and lean backwards, stomp the back half of your spikes into the ice. Step by stomp, remember to lean backwards. It wasn’t so easy, I lost my balance at one point and nearly fell, but made it down alright.

The glacier is thin at some points you can see the black lava in or under the ice, thick at other points. Our guide showed us many crevasses in the glacier, they were light blue, abstract, beautiful and very dangerous. Some goes a few km deep with many twists and turns, if you fall into 1 you are pretty much dead even if you fall to the bottom alive, there’s simply no way of getting you out.

Muahahahahaha, don’t give a girl an ice pick and not except evil thoughts or actions…

These were shot with the OM2 on Ilford SFX

Glacier surface and my shoes

Huge crevasse!

On the way back we stopped by a big waterfall where you can walk around the back of it. Then we drove back to Rejkyavik, the guide/driver was falling asleep, so the Candian girl had to keep talking to her. The guide told us many stories about Icelandic faeries, they are meant to live in big rocks. You need to be nice to the rocks, because the faeries can bring you fortune or bad luck or worse. Some interesting fairytales.

This was a magical day, I decided I loved Iceland then.

Day 3

I went on the golden circle tour, it was ok, it was a big bus full of tourists, some of them loud and annoying, but I met a nice Japanese girl and a nice Iranian girl, both traveling by themselves too.

We saw some geysirs, one of which is the most reliable in Iceland, blowing water every 6 minutes, pretty much on the dot. We saw the ancient Viking parliament site, one of the oldest democratic governments in the world. It’s situated with a mountain by its back, a lake by its front and right on the Europe and Asia divide line. Pretty dramatic huh! Fun fact: Iceland is the only place on earth that is on the Eurasia divide line and above water.

Geysir before exploding

Look at it go!

Click click click

Then we saw the thermo electricity plant. Very exciting, Iceland produces70% of its energy via renewable sources. They drill big holes into the ground and use the steam to produce electricity. They take the natural hot water and supply it at 83 degrees celcius to Rejkyavik for indoor heating, they loose only 1 or 2 degrees on the way. They supply filtered natural hot water for household use, for the showers and baths. No wonder the hostel bathroom stank, thanks to the sulfur. They pump cold water back underground so the energy source is fully renewable.

Zee machinessss

Am I sounding like a tree hugger? Well, I was seriously impressed and they are only getting started with this energy business, now they are exporting this technology all over the world.

Amazing clouds on the way back on the bus

Day 4

I spent the day exploring Rejkyavik city more. I had lobster soup and mink whale meat for lunch. Lobster soup was nice. Whale is over rated. It tasted by beef, but tougher and not all that tasty. Meh. Please take note that mink whale is not endangered, in Iceland it is fished responsibly.

Whale meat anyone?

Oh I forgot! I did have the best hot dogs I ever had in a little stand in the center somewhere, it was so good I had 2 in a row. Finger licking good.

I walked around the city while listening to Bjork and Sigur Ros on the ipod, I understood their music a little more I think and it melded perfectly well with the open city and the gloomy sky.

Water puddle sillyness

I saw a glove in mud, I took a photo.

Autumn! That was a long time ago.

Day 5

I spent 4 hours soaking in the blue lagoon. Again, it was astoundinly beautiful, my photos don’t do it justice. The water was pale milky blue, contrasting against the black lava rocks. The water wasn’t translucent, it was opaque, white when you scoop it in your hands. I plied my face with the apparently amazing/skin softening/anti ageing/blah/blah white silica mud natural to the lagoon and soaked til all my fingers were wrinkly. There was a sauna and a steam room, I made use of those. The bathrooms were sparkling clean and comes with free mineral shampoo, conditioner and body wash, talk about luxury.

These photos were taken outside the blue lagoon pool, these bits you can just walk around for free.

The water close up, white silica building up

Black everywhere except the water

Mossy rocks

These were taken inside the lagoon pool, where you have to pay to get in

I’m sure they heat up the water, see how much steam there is inside comparing to outside

Day 6

I flew back to London, took a bus to Stansted airport and slept in the aiport as my flight to Munich was at 6.30am the next day. I got no sleep what-so-ever, the seats had arm rests between them and were very uncomfortable. I wasn’t the only 1, you’d be surprised, but there were dozens of people trying to sleep there. The people with sleeping bags just slept on the floor, which looked a hell lot more comfortable.

Moral of the story, don’t sleep in airports, it ain’t good for you.

I’ve been reading Hemingway, I think I’m starting to write like him too…

Next time, Munchen and Octoberfest! Gosh I had a swell time! Stay tuned!

Oslo Norway

I write this entry from my room in Puerto Escondido on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, there’s a nice breeze coming from the window where I can see the beach and its sprinkling of fishing boats 🙂

Now Oslo, wow, that seems like a long time ago, I guess it is a long time ago. From Stockholm I took a night bus to Oslo, I thought I’d be able to handle it well with 3 night buses under my belt in Turkey, but nop, I got to Oslo at a little over 6am and I was a zombie, quite literally.

Day 1

I dropped my bags at the hostel, of course I couldn’t check in yet, but somehow I convinced the guy at the hostel to let me use the showers, it wasn’t so straight forward, since all the rooms had ensuites and the hostel had no shared showers, but the guy was nice enough to let me use the showers in the sauna.

After the shower, I felt a little more alive and set out for the Viking Museum. It contains 3 excavated viking ships, 1 was almost completely intact, it was great to see. The one that was almost intact has amazing cravings on it, the shape and the swirl at the end is just like in the picture books! Though the museum is quite small, you can see it all in a couple of hours, but still worth the trek out from the city.

On my way back, I went to buy some groceries for dinner and guess what was happen in the square in the city?! Norway’s next top model! Haha! A small crowd gathered to watch while the contestants strut their stuff.

Early to bed that day!

Day 2

I went for a whole day of hiking in the famous Olso marka/forest. It was a Saturday and many Norwegian families were also out exploring the marka. So you take this train to the end of the line and the marka is right there in front of you. There are many different marked trails with varying degrees of difficulty, I chose the easiest paved path but there were still plenty of see on the way, 2 lakes, lots of different trees and does the words Norwegian Woods ring a bell? Haha, well being a Murakami fan, it felt great to hike a real Norwegian wood.

All these photos from the marka were shot on film

The hike was around 4.5 hours with some super hilly bits at the end, it took me near where the super crazy giant ski jump is, well, it wasn’t actually there, it was being rebuilt or something. Anyway, the point is I was really high up and the view was gorgeous. You can see all the fjords that runs into Olso, not impressive close up since the fjords are somewhat wide, but from that distance it looked amazing, the soft late afternoon light also helped.

The view there was amazing, my photo doesn’t do it justice

Speaking of fjords, it was a shame that I didn’t get to go to Bergen, where the really impressive fjords are and the train ride up apparently has great scenery all along the way too. Unfortunately I had already booked everything for Iceland and didn’t have enough time in Norway. Shame, next time.

Day 3

I walked around the city and went to see the Olso opera house which is quite an impressive sight. From the glistening blue harbour, this white roofed and blue glassed creation rises out. The roof, yes the roof slopes right into the ocean, from afar, to me, it looked like a ski field with all the tiny people on it. Looked amazing.

As I walked around the huge roof all of a sudden these kids carrying instruments start tumbling up, at first one by one, then dozens and dozens of them started coming up. Before you know a big crowd had gathered to watch the kids setup and perform right there on the glary roof 🙂

In the afternoon I went to the Vigeland Park. Lonely planet called the centerpiece in the park “the phallus”, alongside with the descriptions of all these nude sculptures, then it says that families flock to the park on weekends. Well! I thought to myself, man, aren’t these Norwegians open minded…

The phallus isn’t what I thought it was… It was a column sculpture full of nude intertwined people. The other sculptures along the wide path are either in stone or copper, some romantic, some thought provoking and many quite funny. The park is nice and green and no wonder families flock to it.


The phallus

You thinking what I’m thinking? Cos that’s exactly what I was thinking when I saw this…

C’mon you dirty minded bastards! :p

Day 4

I didn’t do much, took a walk around the cemetery where Edward Munch, the painter of scream and several other famous Norwegians are buried. Went to the national gallery, so one of Munch’s scream, there are several versions. I remember also going to the trendy part of the town, can’t remember the name of the area. I hoped to get some shots for the street fashion blog, but unfortunately the Norwegians don’t dress as well as the Swedes, so none were asked, none were taken.

Did I mention how freaking expensive Norway is?? Well, it’s freaking expensive!!! The first day I got there, I wanted some lunch and went to burger king, guess how much my regular whooper meal costed? 9.35 euros! Fuck! That’s 18 Australian dollars! So nop, didn’t step into another food vendor in Norway, packed sandwiches and cooked dinner at the hostel everyday.

Day 5

I flew to London, got a bus to Heathrow and flew to Iceland. More on Iceland, next time.

The plan ahead

A quick update.

So right now I’m in Toronto traveling with my parents. We will travel onwards to Niagara-on-the-lake and the Niagara Falls tomorrow and stay in Buffalo for the night. Then onto Washington DC for a couple of days, then back to NY to fly to LA. Travel around West coast with my folks, San Fran, Las Vegas, etc.

Then my parents head home and I will go on to Mexico by myself for around 2 weeks. Safety concerns or not, I’m going in, I’ll be very careful, but if I pass up Mexico this time round, I’ve no idea when the next time may be. So after Mexico it’s back to NY for Christmas and new years, I’ll be staying til around the 10th. Then a trip to Cuba, fly to LA to fly to Fiji for a day then finally, yes FINALLY back to Sydney.

So, more adventures ahead 😀

Sweden – Stockholm

Sorry for not updating for so long, but I’ve only just gotten used to traveling with my parents, but finally I’m getting back in the swing of things.

And so the journey continues, though this is all from the beginning of September, what now seems like a long time ago, yet also feels like yesterday. I spent 4 and a half days in Stockholm, it’s quite different from what I expected, though I thoroughly enjoyed it in the end.

sweden-1

Day 1

Somehow in this big head of mine, I always thought Scandinavia would be very different from the rest of Europe, like not just a little different, but very different, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.

After getting a bus from the middle of nowhere airport (thanks to Ryanair), it’s already quite late by the time I got to my hostel, so I found a supermarket, made dinner, ate and slept. A little side note, this hostel has got to be one of the best, if not the best I’ve stayed in so far. Great rooms, bunk beds are arranged and half covered to give lots of privacy, spacious clean showers and toilets, small but fully equipped kitchen with free pasta, tea and coffee! A communal kitchen in a hostel tends to the social point, where people mingle, cook, chat and drink. That’s exactly what happened here, free pasta helps too, met a whole bunch of people here, ate in every night to save money and have good conversations with Aussies, Germans, Swisses and Frenchies. It’s called Skanstulls Vandrarhem, do check it out if you head Stockholm’s way, I highly recommend it, I even bothered to write a feedback on hostelworld for it.

Day 2

In almost all European cities, there’s an old town, so I headed straight to Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s lovely old town. It’s not so big, not so small, plenty of old buildings that really looked very similar to what I had seen thus far, which was a bit of a shock to me. (Remember my big head thought all these Nordic countries would be very different…) The architecture though similar, but compared to Paris, it’s so much more simpler and straight forward, yet colourful and cute.

Stockholm, if memory serves correct is built on 16 island, all connected by bridges or ferries. Being by the coast and seeing the ocean made me miss Sydney. Even right now after just seeing Venice, it’s amazing how much I miss the ocean when I finally see and smell it.

To walk from Gamla Stan back to the hostel you pass by all the shopping streets, so I had a peak. Especially at the vintage shops, local designers and of course the Acne flagship store. Stockholm would have been shopping heaven for me, with unique pieces, huge selections and reasonable prices, but alas it was hell for me. Thanks to Ryanair’s 1 bag policy I could buy nothing, in fact all I want to do is throw away things…

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Changing of guards at the palace.

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The Swedish royalty contains a Orlando Bloom look-a-like prince!

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Great chain clothing shop on the main street.

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With awesome cute graphics 🙂

Day 3

I headed to the Skansen open air museum, one of the first open air museums in the world. Situated on a nice hill top reached by the ferry, it’s a nice day away. The Skansen museum contains many traditional style Swedish country houses from all around the country, all of them real, the houses are dissembled, transported and ressembled at the museum. There are many many houses, some big farm houses, a school, cottages, blacksmith, glass workshop and pharmacy just to mention a few. Some houses date from 17 – 18th century, the most recent from the 20s and 30s. Most buildings are open to visit inside and most of them contain original furnitures and actors all dressed up in character as the houses original owners. They all spoke perfect English and most took their time to explain to me Sweden from that time and how Swedes lived at that time.

Sure it’s pretty touristy, but it’s still a good way to learn about Swedish culture, given my big head had a lot to learn about. Plus it was a nice sunny day out and a nice ferry ride away.

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Ferry over to Skansen, where there’s also a fun park.

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There was also a zoo in Skansen, where a woman is being “attacked” while taking a self portrait.

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Grass roof! I wonder how it doesn’t collapse.

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Overlooking at other islands. Those are birds, not dust on my lens I swear…

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Moose! On the loose! (Oh I couldn’t resist adding that second bit.)

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Caching caching!

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Moulin rouge…

Day 4

I went to the national history museum and learnt about Sweden properly this day. Yes this big head of mine managed to cramp in a few things, even some about the Vikings, for example, they were mainly farmers, sure they were good on the sea and raiding other countries, but those were rare, most of the year were spent tending their farms.

In the evening I took a very long stroll around the harbour, climbed some steep stairs to reach a vantage point and took lots of cheesy sunset shots, what else does a tourist do anyway?!

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Nice apartment blocks. Fancay!

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Viking ornaments in the museum

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Nice shadows

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Viking stone carvings

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Here come the sunsets!

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Tunnel through buildings, it glows.

Day 5

I heard about how nice the archipelago islands were around Stockholm, so I went to one. Unfortunately it was overcast and a little cold and the island was alright for a walk, but much too boring for more. On a sunny summer day, it would be nice for a spot of swimming and sun bathing, but much too late in the year for that.

In the afternoon I headed to the trendy Södermalm which I’ve passed many times in the last few days. I did some style hunting there. Stockholm turned out to be one of the best dressed cities I’ve seen so far.Yes, better than Londoners and better than Parisians in my opinion. They are trendy, classic and unique all at the same time, I would have said such a thing is impossible, but Stockholmers seem to do it effortlessly. So the afternoon was spent pacing up and down the trendy street with an awesome break in a nice cafe, sipping a large latte and a bite of lemon pastry. It was while sitting in this cafe that I fell in love with Stockholm. The beginning of Södermalm is a pedestrian and bicycle only area, also at the beginning of the island where people come off the ferry or the bridge. So it’s always hustle and bustle, watching all the people pass by, I was totally mesmerised.

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Bridge over archipelago islands

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Vroom vroom. Not really.

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Södermalm! Most awesome place in all of Stockholm in my opinion.

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Latte and lime pastry while people watching

Next stop, Oslo Norway. You will have to wait a long time til I get the entry up I’m sure. I have a packed Canadian schedule right ahead of me for the next week and I mean packed!

France – Part 2 – Paris

Paris to me was a let down.

Take your time, let that sentence sink in.

Perhaps I’ve seen too many French film, perhaps I had unrealistic expectations of Paris, perhaps that’s not my fault, perhaps Paris is just overly good at marketing itself and ends up overselling itself. The Paris I saw was not the Paris they sold me. The Paris I was sold is moody, sexy, glamorous, artistic, like a 35 years old gorgeous woman, not young, no, she’s been around the block, but she’s sure of herself, she’s single but she’s got it all. However, the Paris I saw was clean, wide boulevards, beautiful in a few rare moments, rarely romantic, sexy or glamorous and never moody, never did I find that oomph that character. Let down, yep.

I sometimes think it’s perhaps the way I traveled around France, the way I did Paris last, because I thought it would be a great whirlwind ending with me falling in love with the city. Perhaps if I started the trip with Paris, I would have liked it and enjoyed it more, but I’m not sure if this theory is valid. Paris is what it is, it’s become overly touristic, overly gentrified. The Paris I had in mind can only be found in old photographs.

Sorry to start on a sad note, but to cheer you up, here are some lovely photos.

Day 1

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A photo studio’s way of advertising itself. Pretty cool huh, really reminds me of Amelie.

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Jady and I went to the biggest outdoor food market in Paris, we arrive too late and some stalls are already packing up, by the time we buy and finish eating lunch, almost all the stalls have packed up and gone. We did buy a box of lychees for the cheapest price in history, 2 euros! And I did a little scavenging in the dumped fruit pile and found some perfectly ripe plums, I believe Jady has photographic evidence…

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Jady’s potato heart…

Day 2

We did the new Paris walking tour, it was a good introduction to Paris, seeing almost all the famous sights on foot in about 3 hours.

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Place St Michelle in the Latin Quartier

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Pont Neuf with its funny faces

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Tip of Il de la Cite

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“Let me out!”

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Hiding in the archways of Lourve waiting out the rain

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Concorde with that famous thing in the background

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Petite Palaice

Day 3
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Took this photo right near the tunnel where Diana was killed, didn’t realise that and was wondering why there were a whole heap of people there and so much graffitti and scribbles.

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We just walked around really. I made sure that we visited Colette, it’s like the most famous hip clothing store I know in Paris, it’s expensive and attracts a hip young crowd, some will even tell you that Colette is legendary. It’s similar to London’s Dover Street Market or Sydney’s Corner Shop I suppose. Downstairs in Colette was just cheaper fun little gadgets that people would buy because they can’t afford anything upstairs. So upstairs, as soon as I look through any rack of clothes, a shop assistant would come immediately after to rearrange it. That pissed me off.

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Oh! We also looked for Pierre Herme’s shop that day, but it was closed for summer. Bummer, I was so so SO dissapointed, but we did come across a nice little looking restaurant which we went back to later for dinner.

After dinner we strolled around, ended up on one of the bridges, I can’t remember the name, apparently it’s the bridge in the last scene in Sex and the City the movie… hmmm… Anyhow, being a balmy summer night, the bridge is filled with young people, mostly tourists, drinking and having picnics. Jady and I linger, take photos and finally we sit down to just enjoy the view. One of the guys sitting next to us, offered us some box wine, we accept. He’s from Czech and is apartment sitting in Paris for 3 weeks while his friend goes on vacation. What did he study? Some science related really serious sounding thing. And we end up having a conversation about economy, China and politics, ending on the note that I said “the perfect system (both economical and political) isn’t possible, because humans aren’t perfect” Deep huh? I know! It seems like a lot of conversations I have with strangers in Europe end up being deep and meaningful. What’s up with that.

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Il de la Cite again.

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People on the bridge

Day 4

We went to Versaille, all my photos are on film. You might get to see them, some day.
Day 5

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It’s a painting, wordpress can’t censor that right?

Musee D’Orsay! It was great, I loved it. So tiring, so so much to see, by the end I felt like I was simply looking at the paintings but not seeing them.

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After that we dropped by Pierre Herme again, the notice on the door said it should be re-opened by now and it was Jady’s last day in Paris. And it was open! Oh what relief and what tremendous exciting. How my heart pounded as we waited in line, “oh oh, I can see a little bit of cakes now”. Yes of course the queue went out the door. We buy 10 macarons, 1 of each flavour. Never mind the pretty boxes, just in plastic bags please, we are only going to devour them in 30 seconds. Jady and I somehow manage to choose a cake each, with the not so big but each tantalising looking selection, it was a difficult choice.

Jady chose something chocolatey, it had a few layers inside, 1 was chocolate mousse and 1 was praline if memory serves me correct. I chose an almond  mille fuille, it was messy to eat and if we weren’t in the middle of a public square in Paris on a sunny day, I would have licked the plastic wrapper the cake same in. It was that fucking good. Oh excuse my French! With the macarons, we had half of each flavour and each produced an “woooo” “arhhh” “ooohhhh” “mmmmm” from us. Each flavour oomphed but our favourite was the salted caramel. No wonder the guy in front of us bought a box with 1 of each flavour but 3 salted caramel.

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Mmmmm

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Jady’s cake

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My cake

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Half way through the delicious mess

Actually writing this is making me sad. When will I next have the chance to eat Pierre Herme’s macarons? Never??? At least not for a few years. I don’t see myself going back to Paris anytime soon. So I guess I’ll just have to jump on a plane and head to Tokyo at the next opportunity.

Jady took the train to Venise with a fully and satisfied belly 🙂

I took a long walk after dinner from Place du Concord all the way to Arc D’Triumph.

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Seine at night

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Concorde in the background, fountain in the foreground

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Arc d’Triumph

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Shop window on Champs Elysee, cake killed fashion

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Asian photo shoot on Champs Elysee

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Inside of arc


Day 6

I walked around Marais, the Jewish quarter in the morning, it was quite nice day and I had the best felafel wrap for lunch.

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Hotel de Ville aka Town Hall, took me a while to work that one out “So… where the hotel?”

Seeing as this was my second last day, I felt anxious to tick off more on the tourist list. So I saw the Notre Dame. It’s ok, not that exciting.

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The world famous flying buttress

I went to the Louvre. Since it’s free for all under 26 on Fridays after 6pm, it opens til 9.30pm. I found the Louvre itself very impressive, it rivals the Versaille. There are so much art in the Louvre and I was pressed for time, in 3.5 hours, you get to see nothing. So I was the Mona Lisa, it’s small, you can only see it from 10 meters away, behind a wall of tourists, I didn’t like it much. I saw Venus de Milo. But the favourites I saw and I only saw about 30% of the Louvre, they were 2 frescos by Botticelli, they were magnificient, beautiful and sadly most people just walked right past them.

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All for a glimpse of Mona Lisa

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Can’t see shit being 10 meters away

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Venus and her admirers

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There was also Napoleon’s apartment. It was grande beyond excess and really too too much, I have no idea how anyone can live in such a space.

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The entertainment room, it was so dazzling, you didn’t know what to look at.

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The giant dining table

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Looks like a giant glowing insect with red eyes…


Day 7

I went to Centre Pompidou and I absolutely loved it. The building itself is very impressive and its collection even better. I saw so much, Picasso, Mondrian, Calder, Matisse, Rothko, Pollock, Duchamp, Arbus, it’s like a who’s who of modern art and of course they contain some of their most famous pieces.

My fav though was this video floor projection, I must have stood on it for 20 minutes. It wasn’t part of the permanent collection, it was part of Elles @ Centre Pompidou.

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To the left, Eiffel Tower.

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To the right, Montmartre.

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The project that I stook on for 20 minutes.

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Mondrian

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Calder

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Duchamp

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Matisse

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The square below

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Oh! How could I forget, I had been looking for a nice pair of vintage boots ever since the purple ones I got in London started falling apart and I threw them out. As I headed to Pompidou, I walked past this vintage shop. Now the day before I searched up a whole list of vintage shops in Paris and went to all of them, they all had very little ankle boots. But just accidently I past this shop and they had a great selection of ankle boots, I tried on a pair, they fitted, I paid for them and just kept them on… Hah! It all happens when you don’t expect it.

Then it was an early night in packing bags and getting ready to fly to Stockholm today the next day.