Wednesday, December 17, 2003

My birthday, Xmas parties and a Girl called Jana

Ahoj (Slovak for Hello)

It's been a while since I have last written to you all. Then again not much has happened to add to my travel adventures. I've been pretty much stuck working for the Kingswood partnership doing some school administration analysis’s (boring!!), developing concepts like system wide flash interfaces with WebObjects java backend, setting up and running online education test pilot groups in 5 schools simultaneously…

I'm also learning to speak Spanish from my mate/landlord John, in return helping him with online marking for GSCE's. So I’ve been pretty busy during the cold cold winter I am now experiencing while many of you
back in Oz are probably sizzling by now! Soy froido y eres caliente?

I recently have just turned 24 on December 1st. Tengo vientequatro anos. It is the first time I have had a birthday away from family and friends so it was quite daunting. However I received lots of happy birthdays from
people at work and home so it turned out ok after all. Jez (one of my managers at work) bought me a huge cardboard box full of different English foods, from Wagon Wheels to Tea Cakes, from Beef Broth to Different Beers. What a nice chap!

I also received a copy of Lonely Planet Guide to Eastern Europe from John which was nice of him because he knew I wanted to visit more of Eastern Europe than west as originally planned. I want to see Czech Rep, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Estonia, Moscow/St Petersburg, Turkey, Romania etc because of all the beautiful cities, buildings and spectacular views/scenery, from forests to lakes to mountains...

Went to the BBC Xmas party, unfortunately didn't meet anyone really famous. But I did meet a girl called Jana at the party, Jana is Slovakian, she's my age, extremely beautiful with long dark red hair (dyed), caramel eyes, very nice and fun to be with. She speaks very good English too even though she's in the middle of learning it. And she only lives 5 minutes away!

But before you get too excited, we're not officially together. Neither of us want any attachments at the moment holding us back from the things we want to do. Which I guess is silly since we both like each other a lot and all. Oh’s a matter of if the head or heart rules the body I guess. In any case it’s still good to have a friend like her to keep me from going insanely bored in a town where everyone is very old or very young and the only thing you can do at night is go to pubs which I’m getting tired of doing. I've plans to meet her back at her hometown in Slovakia in August after I leave here in March.

I'm seriously considering extending my trip overseas, there is so much I want to do and so little time and money to do so. At the same time I miss all of you friends and family back at home, and I miss Melbourne. I watched
a program on TV the other day and they were talking about Melbourne and I felt so homesick. There is no place like home! It occurred to me that Melbourne is very much like a European city. It reminds me a lot like Vienna. And it makes me appreciate its plethora of multicultural blend of restaurants, gardens, cafe culture and nightlife I never really got to enjoy thoroughly. Hope you're all making the most of it back at home.

Pa! (bye in Slovak)

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Wales, Guy Fawkes, and the Great Cider Challenge

is a nice place, especially near the Wye Valley. I went on a day trip to Chepstow, which is just past the Wales border, so now I can technically say that I’ve been to another country. Woo hoo! Anyway, went to Chepstow
castle, the oldest stone castle in the UK apparently. It is quite impressive and you could spend hours admiring the ruins and the views from the top of the castle to the river and the town below. The town was nice in itself but not particularly interesting except for this big castle wall cutting across the middle of the town, obviously to protect it when the town was much smaller and contained within it in the past. Anyway, I then went to see the famous Tintern Abbey, known for it's picturesque qualities. It is quite breathtaking seeing this secluded ruin in the middle of the Wye valley, which in autumn displays a magnificent array of auburn colours in the trees surrounding it. I was quite impressed and wished I could sit and paint a picture of the place....

is a night given to celebrate the hanging of some dude called Guy Fawkes who tried to blow up Parliament. Some people reckon there would be more celebration if he succeeded. The actual story revolving around the
dissolution of the Catholic Church etc and the plot to assassinate the King and leaders of Parliament to stop the assault on Catholicism does raise some interesting questions: Was what he was doing an act of terrorism, or was he a hero for the sake of Catholicism? Based on that, how does that tie in with today's problems with terrorism? Anyway, what's also interesting is that Guy Fawkes didn't actually do it, he was part of a group that did, but he got the rap for it.

Anyway, the country goes berserk around this time and buy all the fireworks they can to let off on the night (and 5 nights before, and 5 nights after which can be annoying because it sounds like a war zone outside some nights
when people all over the town are launching them in their back yards. It is pretty spectacular though). I went down to my "local" (Crown and Horseshoe Pub) to see the big display and BBQ they had going. It was dangerous when two of the big fireworks went astray, one hitting near the BBQ (who would know what would happen if it actually hit it), the other in front of the audience, narrowly missing the kids standing there. It was a good night, met a lot of people that night, including a group of French girls

South West England has a local drink, which is cider. Not the cider you get from bottles or strongbox etc, but REAL cider. This is made in farmhouses where farmers get crab apples and crush them down, and then let the juice ferment. That’s it. The thing with cider is that it's quite potent and gets you drunk feet up, so you find you can't walk before it gets to your head. Now Nick and Paul (two guys from the group I drink with) were more than
happy to take me to a pub where they served the cider (not many pubs do serve it), to see if I can handle it, because they're proud of the reputation of their local cider's strength. I was to disappoint them, because I was able to down 2 pints of the stuff and then walk to the other surrounding pubs.

I can only thank Contiki for increasing my alcohol tolerance.

Went out to Bristol to see some of the famed nightlife. However because I was with older folk I only got to see some old folks pubs. (no clubs, maybe next week though with some other people).
Went to the old Duke jazz pub? one of the famous jazz pubs in the world, which was pretty cool. Also went to some other pubs that weren’t too bad but not worth mentioning too much about.

Thanks to Daniel Zylberberg, I was on Melbourne radio on 3AK talking about my experiences in England. Had he called me a few minutes later I would have been taking that call in the bath! Anyway I’ll have to get a copy of my unprepared dialogue from him and someday you can all listen to it.

I've been invited to the BBC Christmas party in Bristol (Tina, one of the people I drink with has invited a bunch of us to come). So maybe I can make some contacts, get on TV...wishful thinking

Next week should be interesting seeing I’m the only Aussie who will be in an English local pub watching the rugby grand final.

Go Wallabies!

Monday, October 27, 2003

Bristol, Bath and Everything in Between

I miss Aussie Beer.

Yeah, typical of me to start an email with a reference to alcohol. But the local beer here is just not right. It's warm and it's flat. But then, as we were taught on the Contiki tour when coming across things like this, "It's not wrong, it's just different!"

Then again, there's no escaping it. Warm Flat Beer is WRONG!

Anyway, let me tell you about Bristol/Bath.

Bristol is a nice city, though there wasn't really too much to see. I saw the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, not sure why it's famous, so if anyone knows then fill me in. Something about being the oldest suspension bridge in Britain I think....There is also the SS Great Britain, which is the first Ocean Liner ever built, and the Industrial Museum, which showed old printing presses and aircraft engines, including the Concorde as it was built there apparently...Bristol was known for building airplanes of all sorts, which is better than being known as a port of slave trade in the 18th century I suppose. There are some beautiful churches, namely St Mary Redcliffe’s, which was nearly blown up during WW2 (many buildings were destroyed in the war which is a shame).

As for the famed Bristol nightlife, well I didn't really experience it. Bristol is not particularly safe at night if you're by yourself, especially during the Rugby Cup season. Lot of drunken youths out on the streets because of it. Instead I sat in front of the telly with a group of other people in the youth hostel. It's interesting that some people have been in the hostel for months. It's not a bad hostel, people are friendly, the conditions are clean, and free unlimited tea and coffee and a big TV, no wonder people are still there.

Anyway, enough about Bristol, I left the hostel after that weekend to go rent out a room with a supply teacher (substitute teacher) called John Barnett. He's a 52 year old who gave up full time teaching because he felt
that supply teaching gets him enough money to live happily on, and more (cause teachers get paid well up here). He's been all over the world, speaks multiple languages, and has a zest for life. It's a bonus living with him because he knows where to go around UK/Europe and how to do it cheaply. And I could probably learn how to speak different languages from him that I could use on my trip (eg Spanish, which he teaches at home tutoring at the moment).

Not sure how long I’ll be there though depending on work etc. I'm being kept quite busy at work though at the moment. At the moment I’m setting up a teaching model using the Extranet system Etechgroup built, that the teachers will be using to deliver their lessons and tasks through. Also I’m creating lessons and material for a pilot group testing this model, the first of many pilots across several schools. So the school may keep me on after my four-week contract is up, I guess we'll know by then..

One thing though, it's great being here. The countryside is beautiful, (I’m located between Bristol and Bath) both towns are easily accessed through the local bus, the trip itself taking you through narrow roads and magnificent
countryside dotted with old houses...ah the serenity!

Anyway, I went to Bath on the weekend, which has beautiful architecture. Went to the famed Roman Baths, and had a taste of the hot spa water, which wasn't very tasty (43 minerals in it apparently, so it tasted quite metallic. Better than some English beers I guess Nah just kidding!) Also saw the Royal Crescent, the Circus (not the one with clowns), and took a photo of the house Jane Austen lived when she was a child at 4 Sydney Place.
Though someone else is living there now, so I felt weird taking a photo of someone else’s house. Oh well.

Anyway I get a week off next week due to school holidays, so I might spend that time travelling or taking it easy. I'm planning on visiting Stonehenge, Avebury, and all those places in the Somerset plain, or I may go towards
Cornwall... not quite sure yet, really depends if I need to go the Gloucestershire to run some training sessions for a reseller (AT Computers) of the Extranet.

Friday, October 10, 2003

James in Bristol

Hey guys,

I'm in a Youth Hostel in Bristol at the moment, spending the weekend sightseeing (and I also saw Bad Boys 2 which was pretty cool, a bit long and a little gory but eh).

When I left you last in my last exciting email episode, I was staying at Becky Zylberberg's house in Leyton, London. So many thanks to her. Met some interesting cool people living with her, and had some interesting brownies which seemed to contain more of something else than chocolate. Spent some time sightseeing and doing touristy things in London, saw Big Ben (cool), Buckingham Palace (okish, didn't go in), The good ol' monopoly streets like Pall Mall, The Strand, Regent Street to name a few (pretending to be the shoe by hopping on one foot was tempting but probably wouldn’t have gone down too well with the unsuspecting public). Saw Trafalgar Square (nice), National Gallery (nice), Leicester Square (nice apart from the Asian girl trying to get me to read the Bible to save my soul), Piccadilly Square (nothing really), Millennium Wheel (it's big but that’s about it), Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (cool), Westminster Abbey (nice except on principal I refuse to have to pay to enter churches), St Paul’s (see Westminster Abbey), Westminster Cathedral (ok), and Starbucks (ok).

Anyway that was all done before being picked up near Heathrow by Derek, a good friend of etechgroup who works for Apple and this project that I was going up to Bristol to work for. He was nice enough to drive me to Bristol (well the school I was going to work for, called Sir Bernard Lovell which sits just outside Bristol in a place called Oldland).

Before I go on let me explain my job situation.
Etechgroup is working on something called the Extranet which is an essential part of what is known as the Kingswood Partnership Pathfinder Project, which is a consortium of 8 schools around the Kingswood area, St Bernard Lovell being one of them. In a nutshell it seeks to combine the resources of the 8 schools to allow students and teachers to utilise resources they don't have at their school (eg one teacher may access grade 6 art material at another school known for it's art resources, etc). The other part of this is developing a new educational concept known as an ILP (Independent Learning Plan). This will exist online, allowing students, teachers and parents to define their own learning modules (such as a student wanting to learn about fishing, or how to become a bakery chef). This has some influence on students getting jobs later on. I am one of the people currently involved in conceiving, improving, developing and pioneering this new concept which hopefully will be the model that schools across the UK (and perhaps the world) will adopt as their education module. Blah Blah Blah.

So, having arrived in SBL (St Bernard Lovell) I was working closely with people involved in the project, holding training sessions, providing support, and developing the ILP. However the plan was originally to work for 3 days with SBL, which Etechgroup was paying for, and also paying for my accommodation (which was in a converted Barn loft in Tog Hill Farm, which is the highest point in the area for 50 miles).But the school seemed very impressed with my work, and as a result have hired me to work for them for the next month full time on a good rate Woo Hoo! They are hiring me to develop content for the extranet, hold more training sessions and teach some kids web design using the extranet as a basis (so the kids are pretty much test subjects). I'll be developing the model of which we will use to educate other kids on the same topic at different periods of time throughout the year using the same resources etc).

Also a staff member at the school has offered cheap accommodation at his house that is 15 mins from the school. Only reason I’m in a Youth Hostel this weekend is because I wanted to be in Bristol to do some sightseeing before going straight back to work. (I'm working in a small country town exactly between Bristol and Bath.)

Anyway, that is my news to date. Future plans are to go to Bath, and to see if I can get an international licence and then see if I can hire a car or combi van for the one week when school is out and I might not have work, which I am thinking of using the week off to drive down to Cornwall and all the coastal towns to the south west of England as I’ve heard it's beautiful, (beaches and countryside). That’s the idea anyways.

Saturday, October 4, 2003

Back in London Again

Hey All,

Back from AmsterDAMAGE, now recovering in London for the last few days, after saying farewell to my Contiki friends and getting over what we all call "The Contiki Cough", which has affected almost everyone on the Contiki bus. It’s pretty much a sore throat and lasting cough cold. My main focus has been on just getting healthy again, and a few nights good sleep (without drinking) does wonders.

Anyways, etechgroup, the online software company I worked for back at home, have been nice enough to find me some work in Bristol, so I should be heading there later next week and stay there for 2-3 months. Its work for this government project called the Kingswood Consortium, which involves online education and 12 schools and a revolutionary new teaching learning method called Individual Learning Plans....that’s the gist anyways.

So that means it's Good Bye London and Hello Bristol (which is situated on the Western shore of England). My plans are to set up a base there and take small trips to places around me or maybe a big trip after 3 months is up to go to places like Bath, Stonehenge and other cool places in between...I’ll probably head back to London and from there I may fly to Lisbon, Portugal and spend some time going from there up to Spain, Italy, France and back to London again. That’s the idea anyways

I've just left Emily’s place to stay at another friends place (Becky Zylberberg), not sure how long yet, but I’m trying to avoid renting anything in London because I’m leaving next Wednesday anyway.....

I have 10 rolls of film I need to develop, but is so expensive (£72 is the cheapest I can find which is roughly $140AUD) I think depending on my financial status I’ll just get it done, but I don't know how things will go till I’m actually in Bristol and working. Hopefully accommodation won't be too expensive, because I need to earn enough money to use when I’m not working in Spain etc....I’m thinking some bar work to complement work for Etechgroup or something like that. I'll keep you all posted....

Anyways, in short everything’s going the way I sorta planned it to be, so I’m quite optimistic and happy..

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Contiki Tour - Lucerne to Amsterdam


That's right I’m in Amsterdam at the moment But before I go into my experiences there let me talk about Switzerland.

Switzerland is the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen - everywhere there are views of mountains or waterfalls or snow. It is also the most well protected country in the world, where being surrounded by mountains enables them to plant anti-aircraft weapons in the mountains, have devices designed to blow up every entry point into the country, and have a 400000 strong army able to be mobilised in less than 72 hours!

Anything I said about Austria, multiply it by 10 because that’s how clean, beautiful and friendly Switzerland is! Hows the Serenity!

In fact one favourite moment was sitting with friends outside a cafe drinking hot chocolate and talking, with a glorious view of the mountains in perfect weather right behind us. How cool is that!?

Anyway, went to the Jungfrau Mountains (11000ft) to see spectacular views of the mountains and enjoy the snow (but didn't go skiing). Unfortunately I’m sick (I've been sick 5 times on this trip because we all live in the bus and everyone is sick) so the thin cold air did not help me feel better, so I had to go back down earlier than I wanted to. Oh well.

Anyways, got myself a Swiss Army knife so I’m happy, it's even engraved with my name on it.

Then we went to St Goar in Germany where I bought myself a beer stein, the ones with the metal lid on ceramic mug and all
Also went to a wine tasting which was more of a wine sculling because we had to finish the glass of wine we had before starting on the next one to test. It was a good night

And then we went to Amsterdam....

I could go into detail of what exactly has been going on in Amsterdam but that would mean lots of email filters bouncing back my emails, and people may be offended by what I write. Let’s just say that I was someone eating a banana out of something on stage in a particular stage show....hmmm.... Also coffee shops don’t just serve coffee......And space cakes aren't things you buy for your grandparents.....

We did do normal clean things such as go to a cheese and clog making demonstration though.....And I went to Anne Franks house which was cool, also the torture museum, Amsterdam is nice with it's many canals, not as colourful or beautiful as Venice but peaceful and friendly enough.

Whew, not far to go, tonight is the last night before heading back to London where I have to find a job and accommodation, where the holiday ends and hard work begins. D'oh!

Friday, September 26, 2003

Contiki Tour – Vienna to Hopgarten

Hi All,

Vienna is Just like Melbourne, it even has trams! Beautiful place. Went to the Vienna Funfair in Prater and saw the famous big wheel and did the rides etc. Then went to the Schnapps museum! YUM! Bought some Absinthe, used by artists etc in the early century for it's creative hallucinogenic properties (remember the green fairy in Moulin Rouge?) Anyway it's illegal to bring to oz because it contains wormwood extract but I’m told to just remove the back label where it's mentioned and it should be good to bring home. So guess
what we're having for my return home party ?

Anyway, afterwards we proceeded into the Vienna Forest and had a nice dinner there with the best schnitzel I’ve ever had. If I had more time I’d go more into the food - I could do a food tour alone of Europe its so yum!
We all found out later the bald fat jolly harpsichord player in the restaurant was an ex porno star! Oh dear!

Anyways, after a heavy night of drinking (as per usual) I then went to Munich for the Oktoberfest! Woo Hoo!
Went on this massive roller coaster ride before the beer (logically), the best I’ve been on, then preceded to the beer halls and had 3 1/2 steins (1 stein = 1 litre). Also pretended to be someone’s husband because this drunk German guy kept hitting on her, which was funny Spent the night dancing on the seats and singing German songs (or trying to). Meet some interesting German people too!

Depressing part of the trip was going to see a concentration camp, which was horrific to see what people are capable of doing, the dark side of human nature....

Anyways, arrived in Hopgarten, Austria - Austria is so beautiful with 75% of it being very big mountains. Went on a mountain bike ride through the mountains followed by a BBQ - barely made it I’m so unfit... but it was a hell of a lot of fun!

Anyway must go, yes I’m looking after myself, I’m more fit than before I left and been eating well.. ok mum?

Next stop is Switzerland, then Germany, then Amsterdam and then London. Whew I’m exhausted!

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Contiki Tour – Rome to Vienna


I'm in Vienna at the moment, it's beautiful up here, people are friendly, and it’s so clean and peaceful after going to Rome and Venice...

Rome was as beautiful and full of things to see as Paris, except a little dirtier with a bit more character... saw the Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountains, Spanish Steps and all that sort of thing. Also had a tour of the Roman ancient ruins that is cool except it was so hot that it was hard to pay attention to the tour guide but oh well.

Got to see the Pope deliver his blessing and sermon at St Peters Square - now that was cool.

St Peters square was amazing! It's huge maate! I finally got to complete one of the things I’ve always wanted to do which was to see the Sistine Chapel! Woo Hoo! It was quite overwhelming to see but it’s effect on me was toned down by having seen beforehand all the frescos and beautiful art by Raphael and others on the walls and corridors on the way to the Chapel, which was equally as impressive.

Favourite place in Rome was St Paul’s Cathedral! The biggest church in the world, also the most impressive and basically has ruined any other church or monument I will ever see afterwards! That's how awe inspiring and amazingly beautiful it was, with the frescos and gold gildings and windows etc...

Thing about Rome - Drivers do not stop for anyone. The only way to cross the road is to administer what we call a "Death Stare", which involves staring down the drivers as you're crossing the road till they stop. Failure to do so can be disastrous (as I’ve witnessed).

Also went to the Ferrari Museum (that's right Lisa! ) and bought a Ferrari hat, and took photos of all the cars they had on show. It was awesome but was pretty small museum they had....

Venice was beautiful, to think it's sinking and the Italian govt are doing a bad job trying to fix it but that is apparently the fault of the Italian Mafia but oh well....
Went on the Gondola ride, it was so relaxing but overrated, saw the bridge of sighs and sighed there
Went to the Guggenheim museum, it wasn't that good.

Now I am in Vienna, which I shall describe in more detail once I go through it (just got here).

Went to the Mozart Concert in the beautiful concert hall, it was cool, the musicians were dressed in period costume and wigs with vibrant colours etc, the hall was laced with gold gildings and marble and huge chandeliers Music did get me sleepy after 45 mins of it (it went for 2 hrs)

Anyway, Munich and the Oktoberfest is next, as is Switzerland and Germany.....

BTW did find my bottle of French wine - I was actually sleeping on it, lol....

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Contiki Tour – French Riviera to Florence

I'm in Florence at the moment. YAY!

French Riviera was beautiful - went to Nice and the pebble beaches, nice blue ocean and topless women Beaches are no where near as good as Lorne though

Also went to Monaco and Monte Carlo to see the Palace, Casino and Grand Prix track at night – Driving to the country from the south French coast was breathtakingly beautiful... The tour manager played a trick on us, telling us to hold our passports against the window when driving through the tunnel to Monaco as a high tech passport checker would scan our passports and our faces as we entered - we sure were suckers - some people who left their passports at the camp site went to hide in the toilet on the bus to avoid detection lol.....

Saw a really nice Ferrari and am quite annoyed I did not take a photo of it with me in front of it with the palace in the background.

Anyways, now I’m in Florence, it is very beautiful and peaceful up here, with the amazing cathedral and bell tower made of different coloured marble - climbed up the 400 steps belltower to see the amazing views. My legs are very tired!

Went to Pisa too (before Florence), was quite impressive, lots of gypsies and pickpockets around though, had to be really careful... Anyway, I can now say I’ve seen one of the seven manmade wonders of the world! YAY!

Oh yeah, did win a French bottle of wine for getting a question right on the bus but someone stole it last night - eh you win some you lose some...

Also went to a Florence bar, but was a little disappointed as it was very Aussie/American - and I wanted to see the Florentine style bars... Lots of fun though was had and lots to drink too

In fact everywhere we go (restaurants, bars, cafes) there is the sound of Aussie music, Aussie influences etc which kinda sucks and you’re surrounded by Aussies too so the cultural experience is kinda lost, but that’s what happens when you visit the touristy areas on a tour I guess...

Next stop is Rome, Venice and Vienna, so will keep you all posted.


Sunday, September 14, 2003

Contiki Tour - Barcelona


Howdy people from Barcelona Spain - got some free internet time from a friend of mine at Contiki here so thought I’d send my thoughts on Barcelona!

Firstly it smells as if the whole city is a urinal. However there were two things that made up for that which is:

· This huge Cathedral built by some gothic artist named Gaudi. It’s huge, it’s gothic, it’s designed by a mad man who created art out of dead bodies and animals, and it’s awesome!

· These huge fountains by this castle (yes I don’t know the names because they’re in Spanish). They’re known to be the best fountains in the world and I heartily agree as they’re huge and change colours and move about and do all sorts of cool formations etc.

Before I reached Spain however I got to see the huge aqueduct (Pont de Gard) in southern France.

You know words really can’t describe what I’m seeing and experiencing here hence the continuous use of the word “awesome”. It’s amazing how today’s buildings cannot match the sheer majesty and beauty of the monuments and buildings I am seeing here. The fact that most of these buildings took years - if not centuries - to build is hard to imagine.

Anyway, Barcelona on the whole wasn’t as exciting as I thought but I think I was spoiled by Paris. However, I did enjoy a night sitting on the Barcelona beach at night with friends drinking (of course) and watching the usual antics that occur in such situations (nudie runs, people being dunked - we even dunked our tour manager, who was slightly annoyed by that because he lost his beer)

Also enjoyed a dinner out in Barcelona, eating traditional paella (yum), and sangria (double yum - Jenny you are right it’s great stuff)

For those curious it’s made from red wine, fruit and the secret Spanish ingredient is Fanta Mix well and leave it overnight. Have it with ice, and unless you want to get absolutely sloshed do not eat the toxicated fruit

Oh yeah, also enjoyed a traditional French meal in Paris, with a French lady with a harpsichord playing French songs, lots of wine being drunk and yummy food.

Yes I did eat snails (escargots) they taste like beef to me. I also had real champagne, (not sparkling wine, which we are led to believe is Champagne). Thought it was too sweet but still nice.

Yes this email is all over the place and has no structure of flow but so many things are happening up here (like being bothered by Spanish kids running around the computer room at the campsite I’m staying at) it’s hard to sound coherent at all.

Anyway tomorrow it’s the French Riviera and Monaco, so I will keep you all informed soon of my progress.

Till then, Adios!

Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Contiki Tour – London to a French Chateau

Hi all :)

Can’t write much or have good grammar etc cause of different keyboard where the buttons are all misplaced.

Short summary: Paris is BEAUTIFUL! Everywhere you look there are so many huge sculptures and buildings, the buildings are aligned with each other around the city, Notre dame was amazing especially when this woman started singing in the cathedral - such pure notes reverberating around sounded awesome and really makes you feel meek. It is also clean; people are nice and Paris at night - I tell you I definitely am going to Paris again! It is indeed the city of love!

The French chateau I’m staying at is pretty cool, huge overlooking these views but after Paris it’s pretty ordinary, but not complaining!

Wine is good, cheese is good, people here are great, had a party last night in the "cave" under the chateau till wee hours of the morning

Tomorrow we go to Barcelona in Spain!

Saturday, September 6, 2003


Hello peoples,

OK, let’s start from the beginning;

The flight over wasn't every enjoyable. I did get to see Ayers rock from above but couldn't take a photo cause my camera was in my bag which was lodged under my feet and my dinner that was being served. Add to that 22 hours of air time and not getting much sleep and playing footsies with a complete stranger in the battle for the middle seat as a footrest when sleeping (because it's near impossible to stretch ones legs or sleep in comfy position without having at least two seats), and jet lag, and ones first overseas flight did not go as smoothly as desired.

But all is well now, having landed in Heathrow Airport and after getting lost, eventually making my way to Emily’s (a good friend living in London) house to stay the night. She's been very helpful, even cooking me lamb roast for dinner and showing me the local area and etc. Her studio flat is pretty cool, it's underground but with a big skylight that is the only window in the place that lets light in the whole place.

Anyway, some observations of UK:

· Their “@” symbol is where the " mark is on the keyboard and vice versa. Weird.

· On escalators, you stand in the right and overtake in the left, but with driving it's the other way around! Go figure.

· Londoners do not know how to get anywhere nearby. They even don’t know where they are at the moment.

· London is like Sydney but less pretentious, the roads are shocking but the people are nice.

· Streets are rarely signposted.

I’m about to embark on a 25-day tour of Western Europe since I’ve had no experience in travelling or any idea what Europe has to offer. I’m hoping I’ll learn a lot of things I need in order to travel successfully on my own.

Wish me luck! J