14 April 2014

London Loo Tour - seriously quirky

Its not every day you meet someone who is proud to call themselves a London toilets Amature Enthusiast. But Rachel is different, she is quirky, bright, friendly and is taking us around on a walking tour of London's Loos. Its "not a 'bog standard' London experience" and what else would I be doing for my first Saturday afternoon back in London?

Our tour guide Rachel
Following the Loo Lady and her plunger around London I learnt a few interesting factoids about London toilets. Did you know there was a loo with its own Facebook page? Its called the "Jubiloo" and its near the London Eye. There is also a nocturnal urinal near Embankment which i've walked past and over at least a dozen times and never knew it was there.

The Jubiloo - The loo near the London Eye
Also, there was the story of how The Big Stink got up Parliaments nose and forced them to find a solution to the Thames being used as a dumping ground - literally, the origins of the phrase "the wrong end of the stick" (its gross!), the privatisation of bathroom facilities in London and how the City of London is actually the best place to find a free toilet.

The Nocturnal Urinal - it rises in the evenings only!
It was one of the most unusual and quirky tours I have ever done in London and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I mean seriously, where else would you find a tour like that except the charming city that is London? The tour wrapped up in Cellar Door, a bar just off the Strand which, in keeping with the Loo Tour theme, was converted from public toilet.

Cellar Door - an ex-public toilet
Moving to the UK from the US as student, Rachel was interested in finding free things to do in London. She also refused to pay 30p to use a loo (who can blame her?) and when someone suggested she do a tour she thought why not? She has now being running Loo Tours for just over a year.

The last London street lamp powered by sewer gas
The thing she enjoys most about these tours is meeting the people who come along and hearing their stories - "almost everyone has a story, even if they don't, they do" - I was one of them, totally surprised by how much I knew and how much i'd noticed about different loos id been in!

Westminster has privatised public loos
So, if you are looking for something different to do in London why not let Rachel take you on a tour - I'm sure you will discover something new and have a few laughs in the process.

What other quirky and unusual London tours should I try?

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10 April 2014

Update from London

Hi all!

Im back in London and I have been busy getting over jetlag, sorting out work issues, organising catch ups with friends and planning fun things to do. I mean, who wouldnt want to go on a walking tour of Londons toilets, right? The life of a London expat :) Im happy to say that London greeted me with some lovely warm weather (allow me to clarify, that is warm according to London standards), sun and blue skies.

Im lucky to be staying with a friend for a couple of weeks while I sort out my work situation but after that i'll be staying a hostel - last time I lasted 6 weeks before getting a little fed up with inconsiderate people. I did meet my first friend there though so it'll be interesting to see how long I last this time around.

current view from my room - not bad :)

I think that one of the hardest things, when moving to a new country, is feeling settled. And despite having lived in London for 2 years, I dont expect I will feel settled for at least another 6 months.

A big part of this is not having a permanent home. When I left London last year, I had to give up my place and now I will have to jump through all the delightful hoops of the London real estate market all over again. I still cant decide if I should find a place of my own again (and pay through the nose) or start up my own house share. I think once the work situation is settled, that will help me decide.

Such a poser!

In the meantime, I have a little furry creature occupying my friends house who I'm totally in love with and is always on the look out for cuddles and pats. Nothing destresses like a purring kitty dont you think?

Dont forget, the #LondonExpatLife Twitter Chat starts next week, details are here.

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08 April 2014

Does it ever get easier to say goodbye?

No, it doesn't. I have been away from home twice now - three times if you count this recent period at home - and it doesn't get easier to say goodbye to your family, your friends or everything you know or have come to know.

Here is the thing. Even if you are leaving for a great adventure or opportunity, you are still walking into the unknown so it is hard to leave behind the familiar and the comforts of home. If you are leaving a great experience abroad to return home then its hard to say goodbye to those friends you've made, the life you created and that chapter in your life that will soon become but a memory. And if you are leaving home again, for the second or third time, you know what you are getting yourself into. You know about the struggle, the occasional loneliness, the things you will miss about being home, how hard it is on the people you are leaving behind and how much you will miss from each others lives.

Sorry if I'm rambling a bit, it is 7am Sydney time, almost 1am here and I'm on about 2 hours of airplane sleep. Probably not the best time to be writing a deep and meaningful post but I have the time.

OK, so how do you deal with saying goodbye? Here is what I think helps me.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings, say what you need to say, feel sad, feel a bit panicky. But set yourself a limit or it might overwhelm you. If you don't think you can do this then just skip to #2
  2. Focus on the positives. Why you are going? What is the long term/overall objective?
  3. Figure out a communications plan and visits. This will not just help you, but those around you.
  4. Distract yourself. Take silly photos, talk about anything but your leaving at the airport. Save that book you have been dying to read or movie you have been itching to see for the departure.
  5. Remember that it isn't really a goodbye, you will see the people you care about again.

I have to say, some of these are hard to do and I'm always keen to hear how other people manage. How do you deal with saying goodbye?

07 April 2014

Goodbye Sydney

Before the flight attendants tell me to switch my phone off, i just wanted to leave you all a little note to say that todays post will be late. I have been busy packing, spending time with my family and saying goodbyes that i havent had time to prepare a post ahead of time. By the way,  do goodbyes ever get any easier? Anyway,  be sure to check back tomorrow for a full post.

Hope you all have enjoyed your weekends and Monday treats you well. 

03 April 2014

Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach Coastal Walk

One of the nicest walks in Sydney is a coastal walk between Bondi Beach and Coogee Beach. Its along this walk that the Sculptures By The Sea yearly art exhibition is held. But you don't have to wait for that to enjoy the beautiful views on this walk.

Last weekend Sydney cleared up enough for trip to Bondi beach I hadn't gotten around to yet. After lazing for a while in the sun (it was hard but someones gotta do it) I headed out for the walk. The entire trip, Bondi to Coogee took me about two and a half hours but that's including several photo stops. I have to say, last time I did this walk was in reverse and I think that was better for the views. 

Winding my way along the coast, going from one gorgeous view to hidden beach gave me ample opportunity to try out my new point and shoot camera. Judging by some of my photos, I still need to work out the settings. Regardless of all that, the walk was relaxing, refreshing, peaceful and a really nice way to spend the afternoon.

If you are interested in doing the walk you can start at either Bondi Beach or Coogee Beach. If you don't want to do the whole thing, you can always try the shorter version which is from Bondi to Bronte Beach. The start of the coastal walk is to the right of the beach where the Bondi Icebergs club is located.

To reach Bondi Beach just catch the train to Bondi Junction then hop on a bus from the main terminal (just follow the signs from the station) to the beach - you'll know where to get off once you see the beach ;) Some of the buses that go there are 381, 389, 333, 380.You can buy a ticket to Bondi Beach, it includes the train and bus fare and will also list the bus numbers the ticket is valid on. Just be aware that the coastal walk is not mobility friendly.

What's your favourite walk?

01 April 2014

Best Meal While Travelling - Travel linkup

So many yummy dishes, so little time! I have eaten my way through some places but the one place that really takes the cake in every regard, flavour, presentation, price, ambiance and service, is Japan. I did not a have a single bad or below par dish. So what is the most memorable? Funnily enough it had nothing to do with the food at all.

Dishes from a Kaiseki dinner - see the little green bird?
I was in the Akihabara district in Tokyo, Japan with my friend trying to find a place for dinner. We came across a wooden shopfront that looked like it was transported from rural Japan and looked busy, warm and welcoming. We stepped inside.

Tempura nettle leaves and soba noodles
A sweet waitress greeted us and apologised saying they had no tables then, as a second thought, asked if we'd mind sitting at the back. I had no problems with that, the smell of food was intoxicating and I wasn't going anywhere.

Okonomiyak - a type of savoury pancake

It turns out that the 'tables' at the back were sunken tatami mat seating. I think maybe she thought foreigners preferred tables, but not me, this was exactly what i wanted :) I clambered into my seat, ordered a bunch of food and then sat back to take in my surroundings.

Vegitarian Bento Box
The walls were covered in traditional Japanese murals, and the entire space was filled with 'Salarymen' (office workers) getting drunk and creating a ruckus. Some were passed out, their heads resting on the tables, some were getting more drinks, some were slurring lines to the karaoke playing on one screen and others were watching some sports game on another.

Did i mention dessert? They tasted so good!
They would call to each other from across the room, faces red, swaying slightly before getting distracted with another drink. All of them were in almost identical suits, jackets off and tossed aside with their bags in a heap, ties loose, shirts rumpled. It was hilarious and fascinating to watch. I'd heard about this work tradition but seeing it was entirely different.

Crab miso soup and clam rice
I don't remember the food. I think there was a fish and some sushi and I'm sure it tasted great but my attention was on these guys. It was really brilliant. Id never seen anything like it and haven't seen anything like it again.

Clam miso soup and chicken teriyaki with rice
Since I was so distracted I didn't take any photos of the meal. Instead, here are some photos from other meals I had around Japan which were all absolutely delicious. And now I'm craving Japanese...

What was your memorable meal while travelling?

As always thanks to the lovely girls Emma and Kelly and Rebecca for this travel link up.

31 March 2014

#LondonExpatLife Weekly Twitter Chat

Today I have something exciting for you. I have joined with three lovely London based expats to bring you a weekly #LondonExpatLife Twitter Chat!

This chat is for current London Expats, anyone who is dreaming about moving to London or is already in the process of taking the leap. So, if you want to know what its like to live in London, have questions about the process of moving there or even where to find that perfect cup of coffee, then this is the chat for you. Join in, share information and experiences and meet a bunch of other London expats or wannabe London expats and, who knows, you might just make some good friends in the process!

I will be posting reminders in the lead up to this chat so follow me on Twitter (@TravelsByVP) to make sure you don't miss out.

How it works:
  1. The first chat will take place on Wednesday 16th April at 9pm GMT.
  2. Beginning at 9pm (GMT) my co-hosts and I will tweet 5 questions at 10 minute intervals
  3. Each week (starting 9th April) I will announce a topic on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/GlobetrotterPostcards) and you can submit a question on that topic for the following weeks chat
  4. When you answer you will need to use the #LondonExpatLife hashtag in your tweet
  5. If you would like to co-host, simply tweet the questions during the weeks chat
  6. If you have a particular topic you'd like to focus on, shoot me an email on GlobetrotterPostcards@gmail.com

Meet my lovely co-hosts (be sure to add them -and me- on Twitter!)

Sammy (@SammyDornDLT)
London expat via Brisbane. Has been living in London since July 2013.
Loves: The street food, the travel opportunities and the history.
Loathes: Peak hour tube rides and the rain.

Emma (@LondonKiwiEmma)
Longhaul, accidental London expat via New Zealand.
Loves: Exploring, perma-tourism (finding tourist-like delight in a permanent home), history and the secrets behind old doors.
Loathes: Icy pavements, sitting still, bad service, queue-jumping and awkward social greetings. 

HappyEverAfterBride (@Happy_E_After)
Trailing spouse in London (since Feb 2014), have lived over a decade in both Australia and Malaysia.
Loves: The multiculturalism and the better opportunities there is in London for work and life experiences
Loathes: Having to be indoors quite so much and not having easy access to the beach and picnics. 

Me (@TravelsByVP)
London expat via Sydney and Middle East. Ive been in London since January 2012.
Loves: That there is always something to do in London, travel is on your doorstep and its a melting pot of people and cultures.
Loathes: Having to trek for good coffee. And the weather - don't even get me started.

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