Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Escape from Penguin Island

Friday, May 15th, 2015

On Sir Pubert’s last day in sunny Perth, I took him to one of WA’s most prized tourist destinations – Penguin Island. As the name would suggest, Penguin Island is a small rocky island that is home to around 1000 penguins. We were staying in my aunt’s beachside apartment down the road in Shoalwater and headed over to PI around lunch time. While it is possible to walk across a sandbar stretching from the mainland to the island, the extensive “DO NOT WALK ACROSS THE SANDBAR” signage and the fact that we were carrying delicious sandwiches for lunch that would run the risk of getting wet, meant we decided to catch the ferry.

Heading off to Penguin Island

Heading off to Penguin Island

As soon as we stepped off the ferry and onto the poop-covered jetty, hundreds of pissed-off seagulls rose from their shrubby nests and hovered menacingly above our heads. Within the first 30 seconds, Sir Pubert had been pooped on and I was laughing at him.

It didn’t take us long to realise that we weren’t going to see any penguins that day but we were going to spend a lot of time trying to stay away from sharp-beaked seagulls. It would appear that it was mating/nesting season for the thousands of screechy birds who had built nests and laid eggs alongside the designated tourist walk paths. This meant that every step we took was one closer to another protective mother. It did make for some light entertainment watching nervous tourists trying to escape from attacking seagulls.

Nice island, grumpy birds.

Nice island, grumpy birds.

Apart from the grumpy gulls, our visit to Penguin Island was great. Despite being located so close to the industrial zones of Kwinana and Rockingham, the rocky coastline is surprisingly pretty and we managed to find a quiet spot to sit and each our lunch. We were also welcomed by a sleepy seal who had found a sunny spot on one of the island’s beaches. He flopped around on the sand and provided some excellent photo opportunities for the island’s visitors and reminded me a lot of Sir Pubert in his somnolent states.

Show off.

Show off.

You Know You’re in Australia When…

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

The past few years of living in foreign countries, my eyes have developed an instinct to constantly search for new and unique things. I have learnt to spot small details that many people would overlook because it is in their home country and therefore part of the background. Returning to Perth, I have felt like a bit of an outsider, rediscovering the city again after four years of being away. The city has grown enormously over that time thanks to rich miners spending money on housing, commerce and business properties. There are so many new shops, cafés, bars, hipster hang outs and places to be, which is very exciting for a once sleepy town. It is fantastic to see some life and activity injected into Perth and, dare I say it, even a little bit of c-u-l-t-u-r-e.

This eye-opening experience has meant that I have spotted a few quintessential Australian sights that I hadn’t really noticed before. Two of my favourites are:

  1. While every service station in the UK sells firewood, at ‘servos’ in Australia you can usually buy fishing bait. I was driving to Bullsbrook with my Dad the other week and was therefore at least a 40 minute drive from any sort of ocean or body of water, and we went past a petrol station with a sign advertising ‘Bait’. Why you would buy fishing bait in the hills of Perth, I’m not sure. My local servo, located in one of the ooh-la-la posh suburbs, also sells bait. While this makes more sense as it’s less than 10 minutes from both the river and the ocean, but I still doubt many western suburbs ladies who lunch will be picking up some tackle.
  2. Drive through bottle-os. It has dawned on me how illogical drive through bottle shops (that’s a store where you purchase liquor for all of my non-Australian readers) are considering Australia is such a nanny-state where you can’t do anything even close to dangerous or illegal without someone wagging their finger at you. I hope we never get rid of them though because I really enjoy the smell of refrigerated alcohol and cardboard boxes that permeates from the door.

So they are two nuggets of Australian quirkiness that I wanted to share with you. I love a sunburnt country.

I’m Back.

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

This time one week ago, I was squished between a window and a fat woman with a beard on my flight back to Perth. Having just spent 11 hours in the foetal position avoiding any contact with the excess flab hanging over into my side of the arm rest, I was quite keen to get off the plane, collect my luggage, assure Australian customs that I wasn’t smuggling any dead animals into the country and give my mum a hug.

Since then I have spent my time re-adjusting to life in Australia and drinking a lot of ice coffees.

Jet lag.

I thought I had done so well. After arriving home on Saturday afternoon, I managed to stay away until 9.30pm before having 12 hours sleep and waking up feeling relatively adjusted. However, Sunday evening I lay staring at the ceiling until 4am when I finally felt tired enough to go to sleep. It is a strange feeling to lie in bed knowing that you’re supposed to be tired and that now is sleep time, however your body thinks it is still living on the other side of the world.

Anyway, my body clock is functioning properly now and I have even managed to get into the obscene Australian lifestyle of getting up before 6am to do exercise. Who does that? A lot of people around here it seems.

The weather.

I hear it is a bit chilly in England. My plane was delayed by over an hour when I left Manchester as they had to clear snow and ice from the runway. Apparently the canals have frozen and people are complaining about the cold.

manchester airport

From this…

It isn’t cold in Perth. This weekend we’re expecting 37 and 40 degree temperatures which is a little unnecessarily warm. I had forgotten what it feels like to sweat and I have managed to reach ‘beetroot’ level where people gawk at my red face and ask me if I am ok after my morning runs. I had also forgotten that everything melts and all of my lip balms, hand creams, chocolates and pots of Nutella are particularly runny.

Perth skyline

To this.

My family.

I have managed to catch up with a lot of my family since my return and have spent many hours sitting around chatting with my Dad. We have managed to come up with many great plans of things to build, books to publish, jobs to complete and adventures to have over the next 6 months that I may need to extend my stay.

And I am catching up on four years’ worth of Mum hugs.

Mum lasagna

She may not be Italian, but nothing beats my Mum’s lasagna.

The dog.

While I have been living overseas, my parents have replaced me with a dog. My tendency to sneeze in the presence of any furry creatures and the fact that I was terrified of dogs as a child has meant that I have never been much of a dog-person. However, Cali isn’t any old slobbery mutt – she is a guide dog in training and understands the word ‘sit’. She doesn’t jump, bark, slobber, lick (that much), smell or make a mess. She doesn’t even seem to molt which is particularly impressive. While I still dislike dogs, she has managed to convert me into a Cali-person.

Cali

Cali rests her head after a long day at Guide Dog training school.

The beach.

Oh, the beach. Glorious, glorious beach. Tuesday morning saw my return to the early-morning-swim-at-the-beach ritual as Mum, Dad, Cali and I headed to North Cottesloe for a 7am swim. It was nice to see the regular beach-goers again and for them to recognise me and welcome me back. There is nothing like the smell of ocean air and the feeling of being immersed in salty water. Those 15 minutes of bobbing around really kick start a day. Both Paris and Manchester are definitely lacking on that front.

So I am back. Physically, at least. I’m not sure where my head is living and I have no idea where ‘home’ is exactly. But it is nice to know that I have multiple places across the world where people will be happy to see me.

AONBs

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

While visiting Northern Ireland, I had the absolute pleasure of staying with Sir Pubert’s aunt, Lady BonBon. One of the kindest and most generous people that I have ever met, we were treated like royalty during our three night stay. I wasn’t even told to write this – I honestly mean it.

Lady BonBon had collected a range of maps and tourist information for Pubert and I to use to plan our day trips out and about. One of the maps was of the Areas of Natural Beauty (AONBs) to the north of where we were staying. So on Friday, Pubert and I headed out in Lady BonBon’s automobile (a Skoda) to discover them for ourselves.

ANOB #1 – The Dark Hedges

The map was what I would call “diagrammatical” or “lacking detail” and so we took a few scenic detours before finally reaching our first destination. All we knew about the dark hedges was that they were a bunch of trees covering a road and that they were near a golf course. Thanks to perseverance, a bit of GPS Jess map reading, and a lot of good luck, we finally found what we were looking for. A road in the middle of no where with over hanging trees. Thanks to some good weather and a little bit of sunshine, we managed to see the road in great light. Definitely an ANOB.

Dark hedges

The Dark Hedges. WoooOOoooOOOooo….

ANOB #2 – The Giant’s Causeway

I had heard about and seen photographs of the Giant’s Causeway but didn’t know a lot about it. I was thrilled to discover that it was a short drive from where we were staying and that it was an official ANOB on our tourist map. After parking the car and slightly fraudulently getting into the National Trust visitor’s centre thanks to Ken and Katy’s membership, we walked down along the coastal road to the famous site.

Giant's causeway

Walking down to the Giant’s Causeway

Thanks to a volcano, the ice age and various other earthly movements, the Giant’s Causeway is a collection of rocks that have magically formed in hexagonal pillars. It is absolutely remarkable – as I walked across the rocks it became more and more phenomenal how these unique shapes formed. And on top of that, how they have lasted in this manner for hundreds/thousands/millions of years.

Giant's causeway

Giant’s Causeway

My favourite rocks were those that were speckled with what I presume is some sort of algae. The white specks reminded me of the pyrite encrusted ring Pubert bought me for my birthday.

Giant's causeway

Hexagons

After an overpriced and average tasting lunch at the National Trust cafe and having been chatted up by one of the elderly gentlemen volunteers in the visitor’s centre, we headed off towards our next stop on our ANOB discovery tour.

ANOB #3 – Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Once again, thanks to a slightly inappropriate use of a National Trust membership (“You don’t look old enough to be a senior…”) we made our way to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. My new boyfriend from the Giant’s Causeway visitor’s centre had said the walk to the bridge was at least 40 minutes, so imagine our surprise when we managed to do it in around 15. Clearly we were keen to get there.

Carrick-a-rede rope bridge

A long way down.

The rope bridge connects the mainland to a small island off the coast where fishermen used to go to check their salmon nets. They have improved the quality of the bridge, however it is still a hair-raising experience as you step out onto a wobbly bridge, the sea below your feet and a bunch of tourists watching, hoping you’ll slip and fall for the perfect photo opportunity. Unfortunately for them, we both made it across safely.

Carrick a Rede

Nice.

Once again, the views definitely rated high on the ANOB scale.

ANOB #4 – Dunluce Castle

The problem with being a tourist at this time of the year is the extreme lack of day light. The sun is going to bed before 4pm so we were restricted by how much we could fit into our day. We headed back along the coast to Dunluce Castle, old castle ruins sitting precariously on top of the cliffs. We discovered that the once free to enter attraction now had a £5 per person entry fee. We were running short on time, so decided to head down a path to the side of the castle that took you underneath the ruins.

Dunluce Castle

A castle with a view

Below the castle is a cave where boats would come to the shore after being out at sea. Despite signage recommending No Entry and some encouragement from a local man who happened to walk past, we ventured into the mouth of the cave to listen to the waves hitting the shore.

ANOB #5 – Bushmills Distillery

While not technically an ANOB, I am going to classify the Bushmills distillery as a natural beauty unto itself. Anyone who creates a drink as glorious as Irish whiskey deserves a classification like ANOB. We had hoped to do one of the tours and my Giant’s Causeway boyfriend had said that the last tour was at 4.30pm. Turns out his knowledge of tour hours is about as correct as his knowledge of length of walking times. We arrived at Bushmills at 3.49pm. The last tour had started at 3.30pm. Dang.

We went inside anyway, checking out the gift shop and then wandering into the cafe area. We were contemplating purchasing a whiskey to drink to help us get over our disappointment for missing the tour, and the lovely girl behind the bar offered us a free sample.

Thanks to this knowledgable wee lass, we managed to get a lot of the tour information and learnt a lot about the Bushmills range. We sampled four whiskeys, debating on which were our favourites. We managed to agree on our number one choice while the other three were a mixed bag.

We left without buying anything. So overall a very successful visit.

ANOB #6 – ASDA

Our final stop for the day was an ASDA supermarket where Pubert and I were given the task of purchasing ingredients for Lady BonBon to use for a funeral catering service she was preparing for the following day. We wandered around the supermarket looking for square bread, salad cream and crushed pineapple.

And then it was home for a delicious meal with Lady BonBon and an evening in front of the fire. Good times.

Pubert’s Highlight

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Sir Pubert discovered the wonder of automated public toilets during our visit to Belfast. His fear of public facilities somehow led him to decide that a self-cleaning, coin operated toilet was better than a sneaky visit to a pub. Borrowing 20p from me, he entered cautiously and waved goodbye as the door closed behind him.

A few minutes later he emerged declaring his visit as being the highlight of his day. Whipping out his phone, he showed me the photographs he had taken from the inside – the count down clock displayed how many of his 15 minutes he had left until the doors would open again; the button that dispensed rationed sheets of toilet paper; and the hand washing sink that discharged soap and water at the same time.

Public toilet

Sir Pubert is in there.

The bright eyed boy was happy and it only cost me 20p. Now I just have to find an equivalent in Manchester and I will have sorted out his Christmas present.

A Trip to Northern Ireland

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Last night I returned home from a four day visit in the land of limericks and leprechauns. Early Thursday morning, Sir Pubert, his mum, Katy, his mum’s partner, Ken, and I loaded ourselves into a BMW with sports suspension and low-profile tyres and drove to Northern Ireland. We drove through three countries in one day – England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Neat.

Sir Pubert was born in Northern Ireland and we were off to visit the plethora of aunts, uncles and cousins who live in and around the Antrim/Ballymena area. My recent experience discovering new family members in my own clan has made me an expert at understanding family connections. I had been provided with general descriptions of each of the relatives I may or may not meet prior to departure and again at regular intervals throughout the trip. I am now very well versed on the Unique Personality Traits (UPTs) of Sir Pubert’s various family members and could almost draw a family tree. Almost.

Northern Ireland

Sunny Northern Ireland.

Having never previously visited Ireland or Northern Ireland, I was a tad excited and also somewhat surprised to discover that it was located so far south. In my somewhat naive head, I had always imagined Ireland as being significantly further north than England, but it turns out I was wrong. So there we go. This was good news, as it meant the drive to get there would be much shorter than I expected.

At this point I would like to mention that never before have I travelled in a car from England to Northern Ireland with such a good looking, fun and intelligent group of people. I may or may not have been told to write that.

With a brief coffee break in Dumfries, we made our way to Cairnryan where we drove the car onto a large P&O ferry that took us across the Irish Sea to Larne. This was definitely more enjoyable than my last car-on-boat-crossing experience that I had had in 2007, travelling from Custines to Bognor Regis with a bus load of french teenagers who were hyped up on sugar and pretending to not be homesick. This ride was smooth, the boat was half empty and Toblerone cost £5 in the gift shop. Ridiculous.

P&O Ferry

All abord the P&O ferry to Larne

Having arrived in Northern Ireland, I cheered for having added yet another country to my extensive list, and we drove off to visit family member #1. And so began a weekend of conversations where I desperately tried to work out which Aunt was being discussed, who they were related to and what their UPT was. I eventually gave up and just sat around eating for four days.

More adventures in Northern Ireland to follow.

Aye, Nessie

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

It has been far too long since my last entry. I have many excuses – great excuses. They mostly involve ‘real work that pays and helps me to afford to eat’ and a significant lack of internet in the Scottish highlands. Yes, since I last wrote, I have travelled north and found myself in the land of green, green, green mountains and not very many roads.

Scotland is a bit like a lumpier, greener, lusher, colder, wetter version of Australia. By that I mean I finally accepted that it would be potentially possible to get ‘lost’ in the UK. Up until recently, I had laughed at anyone who had tried to tell me it was possible to get lost and die around here as I have always felt that there is a road/house/shop/farm within a five mile walking distance of practically everywhere. Not in bonny Scotland! Start heading into the mountainous highlands and you soon find a lack of roads and a lack of inhabitants. It is vast and open. It is wonderful.

Scottish mountains

Rainy Scotland from the comfort of a car

I spent two nights with my Mum’s dutch cousins in a small village near Perth in Scotland. They then dropped me off in Edinburgh where I met up with my English third or forth cousin, Les. From the blissful nothingness of a small Jane-Austen-esque cottage in the middle of nowhere, to the manic insanity of “FREE COMEDY!” at the Edinburgh festival, it was quite a see-saw holiday for the senses. Both extremes were fantastic and I promise I will expand further when I am not about to be kicked out of my office (I have seven minutes until the security guards suggest I leave) but I just wanted to quickly write something to let you all know that I am still alive. So here is a quick piece of news:

I SAW THE LOCH NESS MONSTER!

Ok, that’s a lie. No one has seen Nessie, but my Dutch rellies did perform a wonderful service by driving for over two hours to get me to Loch Ness. And then another two-plus hours to get back. I have been able to tick one of my ‘Must Visit’ boxes in a very unexpected and last minute sort of way.

(Short aside – I wrote the above last night. I was then kicked out of my office three minutes earlier than expected and therefore couldn’t finish. It is now another day. Moving on.)

Loch Ness was… well… much like the many other lochs that we had driven past in order to get there. A large body of water, surrounded by trees. It did have the additional feature of ‘Tourism’ with the town of Fort Augustus filled with buses, American and Italian tourists and stuffed Loch Ness monsters. We didn’t stop for long – we drove through Fort Augustus, found a small car park to stop in, and took photographs of ourselves with the lake in the background. And then we drove home. There were no signs of giant, lake-dwelling creatures but it was raining so maybe she was keeping a low profile.

Loch Ness

This may or may not be the Loch Ness Monster.

Returning to Paris

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

My life in Paris seems so long ago now. A lot has happened and changed in the year and a bit that I have been living in Manchester. Now all that I used to call home seems like some sort of false memory. Occasionally it dawns on me that I used to live in one of the most vibrant cities in the world. I learnt how to walk around the entire city without the use of a map, I became friends with my local boulanger, and I hung out with the BoBos. I was never Parisian but I wasn’t just an expat.

Returning to Paris for a long weekend was surprisingly challenging. While I really wanted to see my favourite city again, there was a part of me that knew it just wouldn’t be the same. Paris is no longer my home. I no longer have an apartment that I can return to to escape the car horns and throngs of tourists. I knew things would have changed and people would have moved on with their lives. That’s what happens.

However as I stepped off the plane and went to collect my luggage, I smiled to myself as I watched all of my French co-passengers rush to stand as close to the carousel as possible, blocking the view and access of everyone else wishing to collect their bags. Clearly some things will never change.

I only had three full days in Paris, one of those being dominated by the half-marathon. On the Friday I managed to cover 60 per cent of my favourite areas of Paris. My highlight: hiring a Velib city bike and zooming through Paris with the wind in my hair. There is something about this sensation that makes me feel so alive. I used to love riding a bike through the city and being able to head back to my old canal-side haunts in the 10éme instantly reminded me of why I love this city so much.

Canal St Martin

Canal St Martin

It was nice to see Canal St Martin and visit Les Récollets again. I caught up with some of my old friends but others I will need to go back again to see. The weather turned on the sunshine for me and my black jeans and long sleeved tops turned out to be poor choices. I had picnics, ate great food, sat in the sunshine, went for long walks along the Seine and discussed new romances. What else would you do in Paris?

It was great to be back and the intoxicating buzz and electrification of my senses that smacks you in the face and makes you feel so alive hit me once again. But I was happy to come back to Manchester, the city where I have created a new life and a new identity for myself. Perhaps this was because I had contracted gastro and just wanted my own bed. But ultimately I think it is more that inbuilt need to be in a place that understands you and offers you the comforts and opportunities that you are seeking at that point in your life. Paris was my crazy world one and a half years ago. Now I have something new and I like it.

The obligatory visit to the Eiffel Tower

The obligatory visit to the Eiffel Tower

Hanging with the Romans

Monday, February 24th, 2014

My first week of self/un – employment was great. This was largely thanks to my friend, Pip, coming to visit which provided me with a great distraction for my lack of work. You may remember Pip from my first year of adventures in Paris. Pip was my shopping/museum/sanity buddy in that crazy city and a fellow Aussie trying to find her place (and preferably passport) in Europe. She has since lived in Dusseldorf and is now in London and a mere two and a half hour train ride from me! Hoorah!

Pip had picked up a guidebook for northern England – a surprisingly thin book that somehow managed to cut half of Manchester city centre off the map (and it isn’t a big city.). However, this handy book suggested Chester as a good place to visit so we booked some bargain tickets on a very slow train.

According to Chester.com, Chester is one of Europe’s prettiest cities. I would agree, it definitely rates highly on my Prettiness Scale.   It also wins big points for having been established by the Romans over 2000 years ago. It always amazes me how far those Romans managed to get. Very impressive.

Ye olde Chester.

Ye olde Chester.

The main town centre is surrounded by a ye olde wall first built by the Romans and you can walk around the entire city with a fantastic raised view of the river Dee, England’s oldest race course, and into people’s backyards. Then there is the Cathedral which features one of the most peaceful courtyard gardens I have ever stepped foot in. The main city centre features some beautifully preserved medieval half-timbered buildings. There’s something so wonderful about black timber beams criss-crossing over white building exteriors. My camera finger goes snap happy whenever I’m in the presence of such architecture.

Peace and quiet (and a couple of mer-people) in the Cathedral courtyard.

Peace and quiet (and a couple of mer-people) in the Cathedral courtyard.

We somehow managed to score decent weather and the sun shone for most of our day out. It was lovely to be able to wander around outside for an entire day, enjoying new sights, good weather and fun times with friends. I have missed these random adventures and plan on doing it more over the next year. There’s so much to see in this world – this week I am off to another Roman town, York to attend a conference. I don’t think I’ll have much time to explore but it is just nice to get on a train and travel to a new place. I think I would had made a good Roman.

Walking on a wall.

Walking on a wall.

Hello, 2014.

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

It dawned on me last night that I have slept in four different beds over the past week. I have donned my backpack for three adventures, the feeling of being a traveller living out of a bag and adjusting to a new pillow has been enlivening. Last weekend I was in London, visiting friends and catching up with cousins. I then spent New Year’s Eve in Sheffield with my brother and his girlfriend where I had a great night’s sleep on a bed fashioned from couch cushions and doonas. Last night I stayed at my cousin Lesley’s house and in between all of these trips I had one or two nights back in my own bed in Manchester.

My weekend in London made me want to move back to a big city.

My weekend in London made me want to move back to a big city.

I am currently missing the feeling of travel and adventure. Every few months I get the urge to run away and explore the world, avoid reality and just enjoy discovering new places, people and food. I want to sell everything I own, buy a car and just drive around the UK, stopping in small towns, walking up mountains and reaching the most remote areas of the island. There has to be a way that I can do this without running out of money or going insane, I just haven’t quite worked out how. But as 2014 gets underway and I begin to realise that this time next year I will most likely be moving back to Australia, I am remembering all of the places in Europe in that I am yet to see. I know they will still be here and I can always come back, but they are so physically close to me at the moment and not using this opportunity would be such a shame.

This year I want to go to Budapest and I am vowing to see the Northern Lights. Where I will do this, I’m not quite sure but I’m sure a quick Google search of “How to see the Northern Lights” will provide some solutions. I also need to go back to Paris and I have never been to Ireland. Then I will also need to go somewhere warm such as Spain or Greece and I really haven’t seen much of the south of France. Plus I have barely even scraped the surface of discovering places within England itself.

Right. Better go and pack my bags.