“For those visiting, we hope you enjoy your time here,” said the air hostess, “and for those returning – welcome home.”
I looked out of the window at the sparkling lights of the city below and breathed a sigh of relief. We’d just spent a wonderful week in Copenhagen, but it was exhausting and I found my tolerance for hostels to be waning…I was excited to sleep in my own bed, and happy to be home.
And suddenly it struck me that, sometime in the last three months, somewhere between arriving and finding a flat and a job, between exploring landmarks, markets and nightspots, spending time with new friends and meeting the neighbours, buying homewares and paying bills, ice skating and pub crawling and battling it out on the tube….at some point amongst all of this, London had become my home. Or at least, my home-for-now.
I’ve got so much catching up to do, and will get around to writing about everything I love in this city…but to start, let me introduce you to our little part of London – Kentish Town, on the northside. Dodgy in parts, delightful in others, and always full of character. Read more
So it’s been a little while since I’ve blogged…in fact nearly six months have slipped by that we’ve been living in London, and I still haven’t written about it. So it’s probably time that I did, and I suppose I’d better start at the beginning.
Ben, Gem, Mark and I landed in London in early October. We landed at midnight exhausted from the epic week at Oktoberfest, and from four months of non-stop adventuring. Too late for trains, we jumped in a taxi and I slept the whole way to our hostel, just once peeking my eyes open enough to see a big red double decker bus drive by. Hello London! Read more
It’s a story my Dad loves to tell me as though he’s telling it for the first time, and his eyes light up at the memory that is too distant for me to recall. It’s the late 80s, I’m about two years old and we’re playing at the park where my brother learnt to ride his first bike. Dad was taking me for a leisurely spin on the merry go round, when suddenly it was hijacked by some speed freak ten year olds. As we whirled faster and faster in a dizzying circle, Dad braced with his feet and clung to me with a sense of terror that has obviously stayed with him after all these years!
24 years later and Dad and I are standing in this same park in Cambridge, the English university town where my family and I spent a year of our lives. The merry go round is gone, but I’m sure I wouldn’t have remembered it anyway…nothing in this town looks familiar, though I’ve tried to imagine it many times before. Using my parent’s stories and a handful of photographs, I’ve pieced together a fuzzy looking picture and was never sure whether it was my own memory or one I’d just made up. Funnily enough I’ve never thought to google Cambridge, but I’m quite glad I didn’t because when we finally returned I got a beautiful surprise. Read more
Categories: London Life, Travel Journal, United Kingdom and Ireland
Tags: Cambridge, Cambridge University, Childhood Memories, England, Family, Kings College, River Cam, Travel, Travel Journal, United Kingdom
No matter how hard Gemma tried to convince herself otherwise, it was definitely rain and not snow falling on Christmas day. Otherwise, Christmas in London was everything we’d hoped it to be: an awesome stash of pressies, a delicious roast lunch, a few ciders and beers, a heated game of taboo, a self-staged fireworks show and most importantly – great friends to share it all with. Read more
Mark and I elbow our way down Oxford Street, our arms alarmingly bag free. I can smell the desperation in the air as hundreds of harrassed and hurried shoppers meet my panic stricken eyes with their own. We have to scatter aside in one store as a security guard hauls a shopper up the escalator and thrusts him out of the door. The shopper stumbles across the pavement before he turns back and throws an air swing at the security guard, screams, waves a finger in his face and then…he hisses. Like an enraged feline. As I stand watching wide eyed with the gathering crowd, I can see the spittle in his beard.
Ahh…yes, it must be Christmas time! Christmas Eve-eve to be precise. Our little apartment is decked out with a little tree, and for the last few weeks the streets and shop-fronts of London have been decorated and lit up beautifully (there’s even fake snow falling on Bond Street!). Read more
“The rest of Germany, they think we Bavarians are little bit strange,” says Hans with a wink. So far the only other German city we have visited is the capital Berlin – a huge, edgy, modern and epically cool city that I adore. Munich is like Berlin’s country bumpkin third cousin twice removed, and this is in no way a bad thing. As the capital of the state of Bavaria, the attitude and pace here is more laid back and the countryside, towns and medieval castles are picturesque. The Bavarians hold tight to their traditions, and they brew, by far, the Best Beer In The World. I look around at the long wooden tables full of rosy cheeked, grinning Munchen natives, garbed in their traditional farmboy/milkmaid attire, swilling giant beers and eating giant pretzels, bashing their steins together and dancing madly to folk music.
“Strange?” I say/slur, “Hans, this is Best Beer In The World, the best festival in the world, and I think you’re all friggen awesome!”
“PROST!!‘ declares Hans, and for about the 84th time that hour we all clash our 1L steins together, careful to make eye contact before taking a gulp of crisp, amber, liquid heaven. Read more
Ios in September is a very different place compared to Ios in July. This beautiful Greek island with a population of just 1800 is flooded by hordes of travellers primed to party in the summer months. It’s the up and coming it girl of the Greek islands, set to take on the established diva that is Mykonos.
However when we arrived in the middle of Autumn, it was to low bed prices and a chilled vibe, near- empty beaches and streets completely deserted in the daytime. Yes, there was still sunshine, swimming, drinking and dancing. There was still poolside tanning and even a little bedside vomiting…but we definitely caught Ios in wind-down mode. Read more
Our arrival in Athens had initially done nothing to dispel the negative preconceptions lurking in our minds. For weeks fellow travellers had been sending us a message loud and clear – Athens is shit. Really, really shit. Our bus from the airport crawled along in heavy congestion and I gazed out at the never-ending grey and grime of the surrounding buildings, all the while keeping one eye fixed on my luggage, which a middle-aged, barefoot Greek woman had decided to use as a foot stool/sofa. Yes, sure, make yourself at home, lady…
We had no idea which stop to get off at, again playing that fabulously stressful guessing game of bus roulette. We were looking for the port, which was a reasonably safe bet. And yet, probably owing to my closet gambling addiction (‘Just one more I think Mark, yes just one more I promise’), we found ourselves at the end of the line in some sort of bus graveyard.
Climbing off the empty bus, we skulked across the carpark and looked around helplessly. An empty taxi rank, a broken payphone, a tumbling tumbleweed. We were the only living creatures in sight, except for a rabid looking gang of misfit dogs eyeing us off from the other side of the road. But there was water, and a few ships, so we grasped on to that glimmer of hope and started our long and lonely trek to god knows where, clinging to our backpacks in well advised terror. Read more
Categories: Eastern Europe, Greece, Travel Journal
Tags: Acropolis, Athens, Eastern Europe, Europe, Greece, Greek Parliament, Greek riots, Gyros, Travel, Travel Journal