Sunday, 18 December 2011

Story behind the photo - Cliffs of Moher

While I was doing some research for my trip to Dublin, I was looking into day trips that I could do. It came down to a couple of options: Belfast & The Giants' Causeway, or the Cliffs of Moher. I ended up deciding to go to Belfast separately (which I did earlier this year), so the Cliffs of Moher it was. And I'm glad I chose it. You can find the cliffs on the west coast of Ireland, in County Clare. They are between 100 and 200 metres tall, and, in my opinion, and absolutely stunning place to visit. Its a popular tourist destination in Ireland, but, if you go wandering off on your own, you can just soak in the view. Just one word of advice - make sure you've got warm clothing with you - I went in springtime, and it was a pretty windy day!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Story behind the photo- Dublin

While my mum and sister were visiting last year, they went to Berlin for a few days. As I had already been there (and loved it), I decided I would go somewhere else by myself for those few days - and decided on Dublin. This photo is of part of the collection of Guinness bottles inside the Guinness Storehouse, which is the most visited tourist destination in Dublin. The building has loads of interesting exhibits about the making of Guinness (at least I found them interesting), and you get to sample a pint of the stuff as part of the admission price. Now, I'm not a drinker, but I have to confess I quite liked my pint - and the view from the bar on the top floor of the storehouse (where you get your pint) was pretty impressive too.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Story behind the photo - Glasgow and Edinburgh

When my mum and sister came to visit about 18 months ago, the first stop on our travels was Glasgow, where we have family. We also made a day trip to Edinburgh - it takes less than an hour on the train between the two cities, and trains leave on a very regular basis. Glasgow is a city which, for me, is more about the overall feel of the place, rather than visiting to seek out specific buildings/attractions. There's actually not a lot I can say about this photo, except that it was a detail on a building in Glasgow that caught my eye. When I'm taking photos, I often try to look for details or something slightly unusual, and I guess this photo reflects that. You can also see the Saltire (St Andrew's Cross - the Scottish flag) in the crest in the middle.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Foodie travels - Portugal

What:         Pastel de nata (custard tarts)
Where:       Lisbon, Portugal - any bakery
How much: depends on where you go - the bakeries near my hostel sold these for 90 euro
                  cents each, or 6 for 5 euros
Taste:         the custard part tastes like the filling in a vanilla slice, only not as sweet (and
                  much nicer, in my opinion)
Verdict:      yum! I had at least one of these every day I was in Lisbon. If I could have
                  worked out a way to post some home to my family for them to try, I definitely
                  would have.

(PS the burnt bits you can see in the photo had no impact on how tasty these were - at least they didn't for me)

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Story behind the photo - London (Greenwich)

Short and sweet today - this is a photo of yours truly with one foot on either side of the Prime Meridian (zero degrees longitude) at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. Can't put it any simpler than that.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Story behind the photo - London (Imperial War Museum and Cabinet War Rooms/Churchill Museum)

The Imperial War Museum is a collection of 5 museums, which are focused on remembering and learning from war. They cover conflicts from WWI right up to the present day. Having been to the main branch of the museum in London - which is where this photo is taken - a couple of times now, I can thoroughly recommend a visit. Personally, I've found the exhibitions to be both interesting and thought-provoking, and in no way 'glorifying' war. For me, the main branch of the museum is a great place to spend a few hours - maybe even the whole day. The main branch of the Imperial War Museum is free, apart from one temporary exhibition (which is clearly signed), so it is great for those watching their pennies when travelling. (the other three branches of the museum that I've visited - 2 in London and 1 in Duxford - have an entrance charge).

For more information about the Imperial War Museum, visit their website here

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Story behind the photo - Ely

Ely, a small town a couple of stops up the train line from Cambridge, is another one of those places I would imagine is not on many 'must see' lists. My main motivation for visiting was to check out the cathedral, and I'm glad I did. It was a beautiful place, and is where this photo is taken. You can take tours up onto the roof of the cathedral, and this photo was snapped partway through the tour, looking down on the inside of the church. Looking at the photo now, I'm glad I've got a pretty good head for heights...

Friday, 11 November 2011

Remembrance Day

 In Flanders fields the poppies blow
 Between the crosses, row on row,
 That mark our place; and in the sky
 The larks, still bravely singing, fly
 Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

John McCrae

(poem text here. photo taken in Turkey, April 2011)

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Story behind the photo - London (New Years Day Parade)

Before moving to the UK, I had never heard of the annual parade in London on New Year's Day. When I was planning what I should do for my first New Year's here, I thought going to the parade sounded like a good idea. And it was. Except for a couple of factors: wanting to get a good position, I arrived about an hour before the parade started. What I didn't know, was that the parade was the best part of 3 hours long. Three hours standing in the same position, with buildings all around (therefore not much sun got in) = one cold girlfromoz by the time the parade was over. Secondly: being at the parade by myself meant I couldn't go and get food/drink/go to the toilet without losing my place. Thirdly: at the time, I only had one battery for my camera, and ran out of charge about three quarters of the way through. (I bought another battery not long after, but I still haven't learnt my lesson ). Despite all this, the parade was an interesting experience, and very colourful. This photo is of one of the many marching bands that took part. As someone who has played a musical instrument, I admire this band playing without any music - certainly not a skill I've ever managed to master.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Story behind the photo - Cardiff

For my first Christmas in the UK, my friend and I decided we would go to Cardiff. Why? Well why was somewhere neither of us had been before and were interesting in seeing. This photo is taken at Cardiff Castle, on the upper walkway/lookout. The flag at the front of the photo is the Welsh flag, you can also see the Australian and British flags as well.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Story behind the photo - Snow (2009)

As a girl from Australia, snow was never a part of my life growing up - it doesn't snow in the part of Australia that I'm from. You can imagine my curiosity and excitement therefore when I hit my first English winter and got my first taste of snow. This photo was taken out my window the first night it snowed, in the 2009-10 winter. I'm pretty sure I thought the snow was magical and pretty....but those feelings quickly disappeared when I actually had to walk in the stuff! Let's just say I'm no longer a fan (particularly when you throw ice into the mix).

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Because I apparently need reminding...

Dear self:

Remember this post? Go on, read it again....apparently you need to because you haven't learnt yet. Read it? Right, here's hoping you can remember next time...


Me (aka a slightly frustrated photographer)

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Story behind the photo - Canterbury

I went to Canterbury with London Walks on another one of their day trips, which I've mentioned before. As far as I remember (it was nearly two years ago now that I went), it was an enjoyable day - although a bit on the cold side. This photo is of the interior of Canterbury Cathedral - yet another cathedral that I couldn't help but be impressed by.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Today I was reminded...

that I'm definitely not in Australia any more.

Let me explain. Australia is a BIG country. It takes forever to get anywhere. For example: between where I used to live and where I grew up, it was an 8-10 hour trip by road between the two - and that was within the same area of the country

Today I booked a day trip for next month. Nothing unusual about that, you might say. Did I mention that it was a day trip to Bruges (Belgium)? The idea that I can visit another country and be back in England in a day is just slightly strange to me....but I like it.

A lot

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Story behind the photo - Berlin

Berlin. A city that's right up there as one of my favourites that I've visited. I can't quite explain why...but I think a big part of it is the sense of history that you get while there (and what you see just wandering around) and the fact that some of it happened in my lifetime...just amazing. One of these days, I might get around to doing a blog post of my time in the city and share a whole lot more photos...

One of the reasons I visited Berlin was to visit the Christmas markets (I know they aren't the best known in Germany, but I wanted to combine the markets with visiting a really interesting city). There are several markets set up throughout the city in the lead up to Christmas. They sell a range of crafts and gifts, have plenty of food stalls,....and gluhwein (mulled wine). I don't drink, but figured I had to try some - and found I rather liked it. This photo is of the gluhwein I had on our last night in Berlin (I visited with a friend). For a fee, you can keep the mug - which I did. Hopefully, if I get the chance, I'll be back to visit Berlin again before I leave Europe...we will see.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

To the people at the Underground station today....

Please move along the platform. It doesn't matter where you get on the train, it will still get you where you want to go.

That is all.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Story behind the photo - British Museum

Many people (myself included), would think of London, and think 'expensive.' Since moving over here though, I've discovered (to my surprise) that this is not the case. There are some amazing museums in London, and many of them are free to visit - always a bonus if you're watching the budget.

This photo is part of the Great Court at the British Museum. The museum was started based on the collection of one man in the mid 1700's, and has expanded over the years to what it is today - after several visits, I've only barely scratched the surface of the collection. As well as their permanent collections (which are free admission), there are also regular temporary exhibitions throughout the year, these have an admission charge (in my opinion, all the ones I've been to have been worth it). The Great Court was opened in 2000, it encloses the main quadrangle at the centre of the British Museum. Depending on what the weather is like when you visit, the colour that comes through the ceiling (which is glass) can vary.

So, for people coming to visit London, would I recommend the British Museum? In a word, yes - you can easily spend many hours there. Just make sure you pick up a map, so you've got some idea of where you're going!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Story behind the photo - Peterborough

Peterborough is not somewhere that would be on most tourists' 'must-visit' lists when they come to the UK. And, if I'm honest, it wasn't  really on mine either. Since I moved over here however, I've been trying to explore as much of the country as I can - both the well known and not so well known places.

This photo is a closeup of part of the exterior of Peterborough Cathedral. One of Henry VIII's wives (Katharine of Aragon) is buried here. As with all the cathedrals that I've visited, I was fascinated by the architecture - both on a grand scale, and on a more detailed level, such as what is in this photo.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Story behind the photo - London Zoo

Another photo for which there's not too much to say - this is a photo of some of the penguins at London Zoo. Nothing particularly special. Maybe I've been spoilt by having visited Taronga Zoo, but I wasn't overly impressed by London Zoo. I can't put my finger on it, but I just felt like there was something missing. Despite that, it was still a good place to spend the day exploring...and taking lots of photos!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Story behind the photo - London at Night.....and a thought on today

Nothing special to say really about this photo - its the London Eye, at night, taken from Westminster Bridge. That's it.

To speak of current events for a moment, today I remember. It seems like only yesterday, and is hard to believe that ten years has passed. May we always remember.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

A really good idea

One of the hardest things when travelling, for me, is finding somewhere to refill my water bottle (or maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places). When I was in Basel earlier this year, I loved the fountains around the city where you can refill your water bottle for free - and I definitely made use of them.

While at the Thames Festival today, I came across a stall for GiveMeTap. The basic idea behind it is this: you buy a reuseable bottle, then you can refill it for free at various places that have agreed to become 'water providers.' Most of the profits (70%) from sales of bottles and other items goes towards funding projects to provide water where it is more needed.

I don't know about anyone else, but I think its a great idea, and I hope it does well. For more information about GiveMeTap, you can visit their website here

Monday, 5 September 2011

Achieved - ride the Jacobite Steam Train

Its a few weeks ago now, but I recently achieved a couple more things from my travel wish list during my week in Scotland. Today I thought I would talk about riding the Jacobite Steam Train from Fort William to Mallaig.

I've been to Scotland a few times now, and the scenery still takes my breath away. There's no denying that it's a beautiful part of the world. Having said all that, I think the Highlands are particularly beautiful. And, for me, there's no better way to appreciate it than taking a train ride - the normal ScotRail service passes through some amazing scenery.

You can take the normal ScotRail service from Glasgow all the way to Mallaig all year round. During the summer months (from May to October), West Coast Railways runs a steam train along the same route. The trip takes roughly 2 hours in each direction, and you get approximately 1.5 hours in Mallaig for lunch. West Coast Railways provided the steam trains that were used in the Harry Potter films, and the train passes over the Glenfinnan viaduct - a stunning piece of engineering (in my opinion), and a very recognisable landmark from the movies.

Some photos from the day:

The Jacobite at Fort William train station

one of the lochs we passed on the way to Mallaig

crossing the Glenfinnan viaduct

more beautiful scenery on the way to Mallaig


crossing the Glenfinnan viaduct on the way back to Fort Willam

view from the Glenfinnan viaduct
The weather was pretty rubbish the day I took the train (wet, cold and rainy), but the views were still amazing. For anybody thinking of taking this trip, a few hints:

  • Book early. The train is often full. You might be able to get a ticket on the day before the train leaves, but no guarantees.
  • Try and get a window seat if you can. The views are stunning regardless, but the window seat would have made it a bit easier to take photos.
  • The best viewpoint/vantage point for photos when the train is crossing the Glenfinnan viaduct is on the left side (direction of travel) of the train going to Mallaig, and on the right side of the train coming back to Fort William. If you aren't sitting on that side, get up early to get a spot by one of the doors to take photos.
  • If you are travelling to Fort William by train, you'll have to (generally) arrive the night before you want to ride the Jacobite. There's a variety of things to do in and around Fort Willam, a couple I would recommend: visit the West Highland Museum in the main square and, if you are there on a Tuesday or Thursday night, go and listen to the local high school pipe band in the main square - they're really good.
For more information about the Jacobite steam train, visit this website

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Story behind the photo - Bath

Bath. A city probably best known for a couple of things: the Roman Baths, and the Georgian architecture throughout much of the town (and definitely worth a visit, in my opinion). So why, then, have I picked a picture of leaves to be today's photo? Because that's what came up when I used this site to pick which photo I was going to feature.

I'd gone to Bath as a day trip with London Walks, a company who I talked about a bit in my last post . We were taken around some of the Georgian streets Bath in the morning and afternoon, and visited the Roman Baths in the afternoon. It was autumn when I visited, with the leaves changing colour and falling from trees. I spotted these fallen leaves as we were walking around, and took the photo. What can I say? The leaves on trees back home don't change colour and fall from the trees in autumn....and they were pretty.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Story behind the photo - Warwick and Stratford-upon-Avon

As you might expect, in London there are many different tour companies that offer trips to various places around London and England. To help me in my goal to explore as much of the UK as possible, one company I've used is called London Walks . They offer a wide range of walks in London, and also run 'days out' by train. How these work is: you travel by train from London to your destination. You do a guided walk in the morning, and another one in the afternoon. There is free time for lunch and after the second walk. In terms of costs, you pay a set amount for the walks, then a variable tariff which covers the cost of train tickets, entrance fees, and use of a bus (if required, sometimes a bus is used to get you from the nearest train station to your destination). I've done several walks with them now, and generally really enjoyed them, and found them to be good value for money.

Now, onto the photo. This is a photo of Warwick Castle, located in the town of Warwick, England. Since being built in the 11th century, it has been used as both a castle and a stately home. On the day we were there, there was some medieval displays set up - the one with the owls/different birds was a highlight. The castle is owned by the same people who own Madame Tussauds - if you've visited Madame Tussaud's before you visit the castle, then you'll see what I mean.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Story behind the photo - Oxford

Oxford is the other major university town that many people have heard of and (I think) want to visit when they come to the UK. I have to admit, when I visited I didn't enjoy Oxford as much as Cambridge. This is most likely because, on the day I visited, there were graduation ceremonies going on....and it was also an alumni weekend, so there were many more people in the city than you might expect.

This photo is of the Radcliffe Camera, which is part of the Bodlein Library - somewhere I wanted to visit, but wasn't able to go into. The photo is taken from the Carfax Tower, which was part of a 14th century church that was demolished over 100 years ago to allow for road widening. Its well worth climbing for the views of Oxford.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Story behind the photo - Brighton

Brighton. One of the more easily accessible bits of English coastline from London (its about an hour or so on the train), the town is a popular destination for hens' weekends - I think my friend and I saw at least 4 or 5 the day we were there. The town is also known for the Pier and the Royal Pavillion - both of these are worth a look.

Or you could go and try sunbathing on the beach, though I'm not sure how comfortable the pebbles are! To a girl who grew up in Australia, pebble beaches are just strange. The photo is taken down on the main waterfront area of Brighton, looking towards the Pier.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Currently listening to...

this guy:

I've been hearing this song on the radio for a while now, and really liking it. Then, after listening to a countdown on the radio last weekend - and really disliking what was at number one - I hit youtube to see what else he might have released....and was pleasantly surprised. Hope you enjoy listening as well, if you haven't already heard of him.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Story behind the photo - Hampton Court

Hampton Court Palace is a major tourist attraction in London. Located on the outskirts of the Greater London area, it is easy to reach by train (you can also get there by boat I believe). The palace's best known resident would be King Henry VIII, who expanded the palace so it could be used as a principle residence. Most people, however, are probably not aware that other monarchs also lived in the palace, the most notable of which are King William III and his wife (Queen Mary II) - they also lead a period of expansion. Today, the palace is noted for having two distinct style of architecture - Tudor and Baroque. Many people may have also heard of the maze in the palace grounds - I found it easy to find the centre, a lot harder to get back out again!

This photo is part of the palace kitchens - the kitchens have been set up to look as they would have done in Henry VIII's time.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Seen and/or heard while out and about, volume 2

I don't know about anyone else, but I love just watching people - it might just be the best part of travelling. Some recent things I've seen while out and about include:

  • Cashier at a store, after I hand over the right change for my purchase: "I get confused with lots of change"

  • Dogs (as in pets, not guide dogs/assistance dogs) on public transport

  • People thinking that bags need a seat on public transport

  • Random person at a tube station: Is this such and such station?
    Me: No, its this stationRandom person: *confused look on face*
    (PS - she was a long way from where she wanted to be)

  • People dressed in medieval costume, singing in the streets around Covent Garden (they were advertising a show on that day)
Now I'm curious, what else have people seen while out and about?

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Story behind the photo - St Albans

This is a photo of the west front of St Albans' cathedral. I think I may have mentioned my new-found love of churches/cathedrals before, there's just something about them that makes me stop and wonder. When you consider when these cathedrals were built (generally around the 11th to 14th century), and that they were built by just takes my breath away.

St Albans would probably be best known today as a commuter town - by train, it is only about 30 minutes from London. As well as just wandering about and exploring the town, you can also visit Verulamium  - located just on the outskirts of the town, it is the site of one of the first cities established in Britain following the Roman invasion. There is an interesting museum to visit, you can also visit a bath house with a mosiac floor. All in all, an interesting town to spend the day in.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Story behind the photo - Brussels

For the first bank holiday weekend (3-day weekend for the non-UK readers) my friend and I decided to head to Brussels. Or, if we're going to be more precise, I said I wanted to go to Brussels and she agreed...We walked a lot, explored the city, and got our fill of chocolate and waffles (neither of us are big beer drinkers). My highlight of the weekend was getting to zip-line from the top of the Atomium - a huge adrenaline rush and a LOT of fun (I don't think you can do it normally, it was just for this weekend). I also learnt a very important lesson when it comes to accommodation - have a really good map or directions to where you're staying. I didn't, and we wandered around the area where our hotel was for a good hour before finally figuring out where we needed to be.

This photo is taken from a square near to where we were staying, looking down towards the centre of Brussels. The tall spire in the middle of the photo is on one of the building in the Grand Place (main square in Brussels)

Monday, 18 July 2011

Thoughts on living overseas

Recently, I've come across a couple of posts that talk about why some fellow Aussies have come to the UK (you can find the posts here and here). A lot of what is said in those posts mirrors why I came to the UK, but I thought I would add my own two pence worth:

When I meet people for the first time (and I meet a lot of people in my job) and we've established, that yes, I really AM from Australia, the next (inevitable) question is some variation on:

"Why on earth would you want to come here for?"

often closely followed by:

"But don't you miss home/your family/your friends?"

After two years living here, I'm starting to become more consistent in how I answer. And, in all honesty, it boils down to one simple sentence: 

"I've always wanted to."

For as long as I can remember, and certainly from the start of my university degree, I knew I wanted to have the experience of living in another country. While I might be doing the same things as I would be at home, it somehow feels different at the same time. And the chance to travel relatively cheaply is a big drawcard as well. Travel in Australia is expensive. For example, to travel between the town where I used to live and where I grew up, it was a 90 minute (one way) flight that never cost me less than A$400 (return). For that amount of money here in the UK, I can take a few short flights and explore some of the great cities of Europe. 

So that answers the 'why' - the chance to experience a different way of living, and the chance to travel to so many amazing places.

As for the 'missing home,' the honest answer to that is yes, I do. I miss my family, my friends, beautiful beaches, and proper sunny/hot weather. But, in this digital age, staying in touch is easy. Being able to email/text message/Skype family and friends keeps me in touch, and makes me admire my Mum, and how difficult it must have been for her being so far away from her family when she moved to Scotland with Dad after they got married. When I complain about the weather, my sister will always remind me about the incredible experience that I'm living right now, being able to travel and see the world. And it takes me about 30 seconds to remember that she's right. I've living a life that many other people only dream of. 

Australia will always be there, and will always be home. Two years away has made me more appreciative of what I've got back home, and that I will be back there one day. For me though, at this point of time in my life, living overseas is the right place for me - and I can't imagine doing anything else. 

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Story behind the photo - Windsor

While I can't find any definitive list, I would hazard a guess that a visit to Windsor is high on the 'to do' list for many tourists when they visit London. There are quite a few day trips you can do with various tour companies from London (these usually visit other places such as Stonehenge and Bath), or you can make your own way there, which is what I did. To get to Windsor yourself by train, you can either take a direct train from Waterloo to 'Windsor & Eton Riverside' station, or take a train from London Paddington that stops at Slough, and change at Slough for the branch line to 'Windsor & Eton Central' station (according to the National Rail website, the trip to Windsor & Eton Central is much quicker, even though it involves a change of train).

Windsor is a nice enough town to wander through, but I'm fairly certain most people come to Windsor to visit Windsor Castle, which is one of the longest-inhabited castle in Europe.  When you visit, your ticket gives you entrance to the grounds, the State Apartments, various exhibitions, and St George's Chapel. No photos are allowed inside the buildings, the photo in this post is of St George's Chapel (which, like all the churches/cathedrals I've visited, was lovely).

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

I remember....

the first time coming to visit me came up in conversation.

the text messages, phone calls, emails and Skype conversations where we planned the trip.

the message you sent to tell me the trip was all paid for.

the last Skype conversation we had before you got on the plane....and the excitement we were all feeling.

the feeling of nervous anticipation mixed with excitement I had coming to meet you at the airport.

the first sight of you both in the departure area of the airport, and the smile that came to my face.

the first hug we had shared in nearly 12 months - and just how amazing it felt.

the good (and not so good) experiences we had in the month we spent exploring Europe

the sinking-heart feeling I had as we went to the airport for your flight back home.

the last hug we shared before you went through security, and how I was trying to etch the feeling into my soul.

the mental talking-to I gave myself as you walked through security, willing myself not to burst into tears.

I remember.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Memorable travel moments

Personally, I think most travel is memorable - whether it be for good or bad reasons. I know that when I eventually return home, this experience will hopefully stay with me for the rest of my life. In the past 2 years, however, there have been moments that have stood out and been etched into my memory. Here are a couple of them:

1. seeing the Eiffel tower for the first time

I've mentioned before that my friends and I did a group tour (Contiki) when we first arrived in Europe. For us, it was the easiest and quickest way to get an introduction to Europe. The first destination was Paris, and on that first night the group was taken on an 'orientation tour' of the city. When we saw the Eiffel Tower, that was the moment it hit me. After talking, planning, and saving for so long....I was really and truly in Europe, living my dream. It was a pretty good realisation to make, let me tell you.

2. Massed Pipes and Drums at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Most people I know either love or hate bagpipe music. Me, I'm firmly on the love side....I've always liked listening to bagpipes... maybe its my Scottish heritage coming forward. Growing up, my family always watched the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, when it was shown on ABC around Christmas/New Year. I knew that while I was living over here, I had to go and see it live, which I did last year. Sitting in the stands, waiting for the show to start, I was getting more and more excited (and really hoping the rain would stop - it had been raining all day). Seeing and hearing the massed pipes and drums (who open the show) walk out onto the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle gave me goosebumps. I didn't know where to look, and felt a bit like a kid on Christmas morning, trying to decide which present to open first. If I'm completely honest, the moment actually brought a tear to my eye. I don't think I will forget it.....ever.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Story behind the photo - Cambridge

Cambridge.....home of one of the best known universities in the UK. Exploring the different colleges of the university is probably high on most people's lists when they visit Cambridge....and trying punting on the river (or, if you're me, you stand on a bridge and watch people try to punt....which can be very entertaining!).

This photo, however, is taken somewhere I bet many people would not have heard of before - I certainly hadn't. And the only reason I found out about this place is because I did an open-top bus tour of Cambridge the first time I visited there, and it was one of the stops. The place I'm referring to is the Cambridge American Cemetery.

Built on land donated by Cambridge University, the cemetery is the burial place of over 3,000 American servicemen who served in World War II. In addition, the Memorial Wall (which is on the left of this photo, the Memorial pool is the other main feature), lists the names of over 5,000 American servicemen with no known grave. I only spent about 20 minutes here (in order to get on the next open-top bus), but it gave me just a little more understanding of the scope of World War II - something I'm coming to appreciate more and more the longer I'm living here.

For more information on the Cambridge American Cemetery, go here

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

My (personal) hints for successfully navigating the Underground

I need to preface this by saying that I don't think I'm an expert at all when it comes to the Underground (the Tube) in London. I'm sure there are things that I might do that totally annoy native Londoners. But, having been here for a couple of years, these are some of my tips to help make the journey just a little bit easier.....

1. Use an Oyster card to pay your fares if you're in London for a few days or more, it really is the easiest (and cheapest) option. You pay a 5 pound deposit (refunded if you return the card), Single journeys within zone 1 & 2 (the main tourist areas) are then charged at 1.90 pounds, as opposed to 4 pounds for a cash fare. And if you make lots of trips by tube in one day with an Oyster card, your charges get capped at the same cost as a day travelcard. As I said, definitely the most cost effective option in my opinion

2. Get a Tube map. And make use of it personally, I think pre-planning your journey if you can is much easier...

3. Stand on the right hand side of the escalators - I have no idea why the rule is 'stand on the right, walk on the left.' But it is. And there's plenty of signs up next to the escalators. So there's no real reason not follow the signs...

4. Know about planned disruptions beforehand if you can if it's the weekend, Transport for London will be doing line works. There will be track closures. The TfL website lists the closures ahead of time....really helpful in the planning process of getting from A to B.

5. Avoid the Tube in rush hour if possible especially with luggage. I've been there, done that. Not one of my favourite experiences.

6. Use the whole length of the platform to board the train head for the first or last carriage if you can. They're usually less crowded. It doesn't really matter which carriage you get on, you'll still get to where you want to go in the end...

7. You don't always have to use the Tube to get from A to B sometimes walking is quicker (and easier)

Is there anything else anyone would add to this list?

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Story behind the photo - London (Monument and St Paul's Cathedral)

As I mentioned last week, I was only in Norwich for 5 weeks before moving to my current location. The first weekend after moving to where I am now, I met my friend in London for a day of exploring, capped off by going to our first musical (We Will Rock You). Before making it to that though, we decided (because we're just a teeny bit crazy) to visit both \The Monument and St Paul's Cathedral. Why were we crazy? Well, we decided to climb both of  them to check out the views.....Monument has about 300 steps, and St Paul's about 500 that was a 1600 step (approximate) round trip! Boy did my legs know about it...

I think most people will have heard about St Paul's Cathedral (incidentally my favourite church in London), but I don't think too many people have heard of the Monument.....I hadn't until my friend suggested it. The Monument was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and built to commemorate the Great Fire of London in 1666. The height of it is the distance of its location to where the Great Fire of London started. You can go here for more information. The photo above is of the staircase inside the Monument.

So was it worth climbing all those steps? Well, the photo below is of the view from the top.....I'll let you decide....

Monday, 27 June 2011

Story behind the photo - Cromer

When I first arrived in Norwich, I didn't know how long I would be there for, as I didn't know how long my work contract would be for. As it turned out, I found out after 3 weeks that my contract would only be for a further 2 weeks. Wanting to make the most of the time I had left to explore the area, I asked my work colleagues where would be the best place to see the Norfolk coast, and they recommended Cromer - I was told while this was not the most beautiful spot on the coastline, it was the easiest to get to via public transport.

I visited Cromer for the day, and found it to be a pretty town. As someone who used to live on the coast back in Australia, it was definitely nice to see the ocean again - even though it was a slightly different colour to what I'm used to. There's a lifeboat museum in Cromer, which was an interesting visit, and is where this photo was taken. RNLI stands for 'Royal National Lifeboat Institution' - a volunteer charity who provide sea rescue throughout Britain. You can go here for more information about them.

(PS for anybody following along who was expecting this post yesterday, my apologies - I just couldn't get the photo to load last night, and there's not much point to the post without a photo, is there?)

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Story behind the photo - Sandringham

Sandringham (or, to be more correct, Sandringham Estate) is located in Norfolk, near the town of King's Lynn. It belongs to the Royal Family, and the current Queen spends the New Year period here each year. No having a car (and having to rely on public transport), it was a bit of a challenge to get here - three buses and about 2.5 hours in total - but it was definitely worth it, to see the beautiful house and grounds. And there is an interesting museum on the grounds too. This photo is of the main house at Sandringham, taken from the grounds.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

More musical discoveries

An unexpected bonus of living over here has been hearing music from bands that I never would get to hear back home. Most recently, I was at the Strawberry Fair (a community festival), and spent a very pleasant couple of hours in their acoustic tent. These are the bands that I heard and enjoyed:

As you can probably tell, my musical tastes kind of fall very much in acoustic/folk type stuff for the most part....but I like most music really. It has the ability to take me back to where I was where I first heard it....I couldn't imagine a life without music.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Story behind the photo - Norwich

Following an amazing 3 week introduction to some of the sights of Europe, it was time to get back to reality and start working again. After all, I've gotta fund the travelling somehow.....right? I'd been fortunate enough to line up a job before I left Australia - not something I think would happen now - which was in Norwich. Norwich is located in Norfolk, about 2 hours by train direct from London (except if you try and get there on a Sunday - then it will be a train, a bus, a train and another train ride!)

I was in Norwich for five weeks all up, and enjoyed exploring in and around a town that's a little less 'touristy' then others in England - by that, I mean that you wouldn't think of it as an immediate tourist destination, but it is still definitely worth a visit. This photo was taken on my second visit to Norwich Castle. Built in the 11th century, the castle was used as a prison for a time. Today, the keep (this was the most defended part of a castle) still stands, and is used as a museum. You can also climb to the top of the keep and get some great views over Norwich.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Achieved: visit somewhere else in Switzerland

This was a couple of weekends ago now, but I achieved something else off of my travel wish list - visiting more of Switzerland. I visited Basel, which is a town right on the border of Switzerland, France, and Germany. I chose Basel because, when I was on the BMI website they were advertising that they were just starting up flights to Basel, and the price was I figured, why not? Basel is not as 'touristy' as some of the other places I've visited, but I still enjoyed myself exploring the town. Here are some photos from the trip:

the silver statue/monument shows the point where France, Germany and Switzerland  meet
the village on the left of the bridge is in France. the village on the right is in Germany
some street art in Basel

there are a few of these ferries that cross the Rhine - they are attached to a cable and just use the river currents to get across.
Rathaus (town hall)

inside the paper mill in Basel (its a museum and still a working mill)

the bridge on the right is the 'old bridge'

Basel Zoo