Six Months in London

From freezing days and 3pm sunsets to now blue skies and 10pm daylight, a lot has changed over the last six months since I moved to London. Looking back at one of my earlier posts that marked the first month of living in Notting Hill, I realise so much has happened since then, not just with my travels but work (yes I do have a job!) and personal life as well. So I thought it was time to turn my reminiscing into words and put together a bit of a recap for you all.

TRAVEL LIFE

One of the biggest appeals of moving to London was the temptation and ease of travel compared to living in Sydney. Living on Europe’s doorstep and so close to Africa is something that I’ve definitely taken advantage of over the past six months. I’ve listed some of the destinations I have visited below, a few of which I have already written about and others that are still in the works. To be honest, time has gone so quickly and converting my travel journal notes and photos into enjoyable blog posts for you guys can be a bit of a juggling act! The closeness of destinations also means that I’m always thinking about a next trip or keeping an eye on free weekends and flight prices. My next adventure (leaving this weekend!) will be one of my biggest trips yet, taking me transatlantic for a two-week trip to the United States. Starting with a week in NYC and ending with a wedding on the West Coast, can’t wait to share it with you, stay tuned!

Places I have visited:

WORK LIFE

Besides what some people may think, I do work for a living! It just so happens that by a stroke of luck, this role has allowed me to go on two trips to Egypt to plan and host an international conference. While in London, I’ve been based in Mayfair (yes the Mayfair from Monopoly, just as flashy and corporate as you’d imagine) but also spent some time working from home in Notting Hill. I’ve delved into the world of start-ups and its community through friends and colleagues, and also been able to met other Londoners, locals and migrants, all on their own career path that involves facing the crazy peak hour commutes on the tube each day. London seems to be full of work opportunities but you also have to be savvy – and a bit lucky – to find the good ones. Generally, it does not pay as well as Australia either so you need to keep that in mind. Job roles are a lot more specialised here and having UK work experience under your belt really helps with career progression. One of the best things about working in London has been the friends I have made, who I would not have met otherwise working in Sydney. At my current job, our team is very international and in between working on issues related to Africa, my Portuguese colleague has also made sure we find time to search for the best Portuguese tarts in London!

FIT LIFE

One of the biggest challenges while living here has been trying to fill the void left by leaving my beloved fitness routine of F45 in the morning before work. Fitness classes can be pricey in London and finding something you like that fits your schedule and budget can be a little tricky. I have joined my local gym which I try to go to a few times a week (I do mainly pump and cycle classes) and I also play netball with an awesome mixed team on Tuesday evenings (I normally run or cycle to the games which is actually quicker than public transport!). While it’s always difficult to settle into a consistent routine, I did enjoy a trial week at F45 Tottenham Court Road and I’m planning to try Classpass with some of my friends who love it here to get back into it post America (and post all the bagels)!

Other than that, I’m enjoying the chance to try different things and found a new activity that is challenging, both physically and mentally, called bouldering. It’s basically rock climbing without a harness. I did it for the first time when visiting a friend in Norwich a few weeks ago and it was a lot of fun, not to mention your entire body gets a solid workout (you will feel it the next day!). It seems to be rapidly growing in the UK too so there are quite a few bouldering places or similar around London that I’m keen to check out.

FOOD LIFE

So still vegetarian and loving it but after spending much time during my first few months in London eating out and trying new restaurants, I’ve had to tame it back a bit after taking one too many bites out of my bank account! One of the best vegan/vegetarian spots I have discovered though has to be Bonnington Café. Located just a short walk from Vauxhall station, it’s a community café that has been around since the 80s and began as a venue for squatters. While the menu is simple, the homemade food is delicious and well-priced. It’s also BYO with no corkage charge.

Closer to home in Notting Hill, brunch is still one of my favourite things to do but every now and then I turn on the Masterchef mode and head to the Portobello Markets on Saturdays to buy some fresh produce from the local stalls and bread from Fabrique Bakery to create my own brunch. There are many cafés and restaurants in the area but having tried many of them, the best coffee I found is actually in a little café called Sweet Things just off Portobello Road. If you go during the week there’s normally an Australian girl there who manages the place and makes great coffee. The wifi is good with also power plugs on the tables, so I’ve spent a few days working there recently and rewarding myself with their carrot cake.

10 Things Not To Do at Glastonbury Festival

Like the other odd 200,000 revellers at Glastonbury 2017 I have got some serious glasto withdrawals, otherwise known as the #glastoblues. Being my second time at Glasto – the first when I was 19 and now 8 years later – I can honestly say that having the best time of my life was not a one hit wonder. I absolutely LOVE it. Going to Glastonbury is like going to another world where the rules, or lack thereof, are equalled with the individual spirit and love of life of everyone around you. It’s the music, it’s the people, it’s the abundance of food, it’s the colours, it’s the strange and the bizarre, it’s the hard yards of getting there and the grit of it all that truly makes the 6 days camping experience in a farm with no showers absolutely worth it and a one of a kind experience that, if you are lucky enough, you will get tickets to. So while I sit here reminiscing and dreaming of going in another 2 years time, I will leave you with my best tips of what NOT to do to prepare in advance, sharing the things I have learned that made my experience something I won’t forget.IMG_2825.JPG

  1. Do not get there too early. Gates opened at 8am on Wednesday morning and this year the heatwave was lethal for those who were keen to get there but unluckily were met with lengthy lines. It’s really the luck of the draw to get the best spot but taking a coach instead of driving seemed to be much quicker (by about 4 hours) to get in this time around.
  2. Do not get there too late – pitching a tent in the dark when there is hardly any space to even sit between some tents is really not ideal. If you are arriving later than you hoped see if you can find a friend to set your tent up for you. Make sure they also bring a recognisable flag to help guide you to your new ‘home’ over the coming days.IMG_2775img_2478.jpg
  3. Do not camp right near a stage. If you do camp too close to a stage you can expect to be in the midst of hordes of crowds. The final night after Ed Sheeran was absolute madness when everyone decided to head towards Jamie xx. THOUSANDS were literally inching their way around tents to get by, I saw many get either trodden on or collapse. Likewise, camping downhill near the toilets is also a bad idea for that matter… however this could be a consequence of arriving late and it being the only available space so be warned.
  4. Do not bring a million things. Stick to a packing list and check in with your friends so you don’t double up when it isn’t necessary. A lot of the food you think you will eat, you won’t. There is so much choice (plus vegetarian/vegan options!) that it would be just not be right to try it. Breakfast plus some snacks to accompany drinking at your campsite is really the only food needed.
  5. Do not bring just ‘normal clothes’ – costumes are the way to go and also way more fun. This year the group I was with coordinated to wear different costumes on different days and it made each day both memorable and hilarious.img_2546.jpgIMG_3324IMG_3140
  6. Do not leave your tent without toilet paper. You will need it, trust me. Although, there are usually people in line that will sympathise with you and give you a few squares. The hand sanitiser there will also surely run out so bring that too.
  7. Do not expect to sleep. Much. There is so much to do until the early hours that the stages could shut down completely, even in the late night spots of Arcadia and the Shangri La, and you may still find a sunrise rave with a boombox going on (true story).IMG_3296
  8. Do not just see the acts your group of friends want to see. Venture out and go in pairs or fly solo if need be. You do not want to miss seeing artist you like then risk hearing everyone rave about how it was the best performance of their career afterwards. You will have serious regret.
  9. Do not expect to get home afterwards in a hurry – around 3 hours is generally the norm to just exit the carpark if you don’t leave before sunrise on the last day. Also, make sure you actually know where you have parked your car. This can add a considerable amount of time to your journey and when you have to split up to search for it amongst the numerous paddocks while hungover and hungry, you will be wishing you had taken a photo of the surrounding signs (or anything) to help you…
  10. Do not think normal life will ever be the same. Going back to reality just doesn’t compare after a Glasto experience. Glasto blues is real and the music pounding in your head for days is too.Katy Perry setIMG_2852IMG_3338

That time I rode a camel at The Great Pyramids of Giza

Visiting the Great Pyramids of Giza is something I think must be on everyone’s bucket list. It was definitely on mine. So when I got the opportunity while working in Cairo to spend a day at pyramids I literally jumped at the chance. You may be surprised (like I was) to find out that the pyramids are so close to the city centre that in some locations you can actually sit down for a meal and see the vague shadow of a triangle in the far distance. It is quite amazing really. Getting there then isn’t far at all by car as my colleague and I were lucky enough to find out when we got a lift with some local friends we made on one of our first nights in Cairo.IMG_0994After a quick purchase of tickets you walk through a security check and it’s hard to contain your excitement when see the oldest standing seventh wonder of the ancient world right there in front of you. As soon as you get there you can practically jump on a camel and in a whirlwind hear the history of the pyramids rattled off from its handler, who like many of the workers there, had been in the same job for over 10 years. Needless to say he had done this mannnny times before and we were encouraged to take ALL the cheesy touristy photos.IMG_0922IMG_1014IMG_0939Following a long photo shoot spent on a pretty angry camel by the end of it we entered the tomb of the architect of the pyramids, which was a man named Hemiunu. We were told we were lucky to take photos there and that it was forbidden to put them on social media (I doubt this is true but I have a million other photos to share from that day). Nevertheless, I saw my first ever hieroglyphs before then being taken around to each of the three pyramids by horse and cart. This was definitely a perk of having Egyptian friends who could negotiate an actual “Egyptian price”, a term which you will hear COUNTLESS times in Egypt as if the Egyptian sellers truly think you will believe this as a tourist with blonde hair! Meanwhile we saw other non-Arabic speaking tourists (the few other tourists that were there) walking painfully in the heat. The downfall of this deal though was that we didn’t enter any of the pyramids with the guide dismissing it as the “tunnels being too narrow and dark to see anything” – something I wasn’t so impressed with but a reason to come back one day right?

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Another perk of being with Egyptians was that we got chauffeured to the nearby perfume and papyrus stores where we were shown the true scents of Cleopatra, Nefertiti and Chanel (yes before it goes to Paris guys!) before purchasing original papyrus prints – see definitely not a tourist trap… To cap off the day we returned at night to see a light show that was spectacular, not because it was anything fancy or super high tech as truthfully it was probably barely surviving in contrast to the tourist hot spot it once used to be. However, the mere fact that we were sitting front row (with probably only 10 others in the crowd max) while watching lights flicker across such an imagined place in the world is truly an experience. The pyramids may not be as ‘exotic’ you would expect through the imagined films from Hollywood but just sitting in front of such remarkable structures whose sheer size and magnificence took over 20 years to build that have lasted over 4000 years to this day is something I will not forget. Having stood the test of time, they really do achieve the vision of immortalising the Pharaohs forever.IMG_0634IMG_0661IMG_0677IMG_1167.jpg