36 Hours In Amsterdam

So Christmas has been and gone, as has the new year and also my birthday. It’s summer, I have manged to score myself a few weekends off and general life has been pretty swell. I have today off and plan to get some stuff done for work. I also have half a bunch of bananas that with each passing day become more brown. I intend to bake with these today.
I believe Monica and I were off to Amsterdam.

Monica was determined to go to Amsterdam; as soon as she told us that she was coming over for a visit, Amsterdam was a definite must. Sam and I were both happy to accommodate this request. I mean, it is Amsterdam after all. So I was more than happy to look into flights and accommodation for us all. During the researching process, Sam regrettably advised us that he would not be able to come to Amsterdam as he was too poor. So, it would be Monica and I alone in Amsterdam. We were both okay with this. Sam would just have to be jealous. I’ll write Amsterdam here, just one more time for effect.

All was organised: Monica and I were catching a bus to Liverpool airport, arriving in Amsterdam in the evening, catching a train to the city, arriving at our hostel… and then Amsterdam would be ours. For a grand total of 36 Hours.  We got all the way to the city incident free. We got off the train, looked at the address of our hostel ‘Dirty Nellies’ (Irish accommodation in the Netherlands, that’s how it’s done right?) and discovered we had no idea how to get there. At this point of my life I was yet to own a smart phone, Monica had an iPhone but was a little reclutant to use her roaming internationally as we had heard stories about people clocking up thousands of dollars from using it. We came to the smart conclusion of using it as quickly as possible to get a route up, memorize the route and turn the roaming off. We didn’t remember the route, it was getting dark and we were sick of dragging our wheely bags over the cobbled streets. Cobbled streets and wheely bags are not a good mix. We resorted to using the roaming again.
  

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At check in, the friendly staff showed us to our room, showed us where to get breakfast in the morning and invited us to the pub crawl they do nightly. We had no plans so decided to join the pub crawl. We made friends with a very strange man – he took quite a fancy to Monica. Once realising this we quickly tried to unfriend him by making friends with some Australians. They were in a band together and on a university trip. They were cool. The pub crawl only had a small following that night, so we made our new Australian friends come along as well. We went to a karaoke bar, and a few dance clubs. We witnessed one girl fall flat on her face while doing some sort of sexy dance with a boy and I somehow managed to attract a girl who spent the duration of her time with us trying to kiss me. Tongue and all. The night ended up being reasonably epic.

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The next morning we went down to our breakfast, made some delicious ham sandwiches and set off about our day. If you haven’t already guessed, we wanted to find a coffee shop. Like its Amsterdam, I wasn’t going to be a snob, embrace the local ways right? So a coffee shop we found. The best part about this coffee shop was that it had a cat. I was a little bit sad that the cat had to be in there whilst people got merry, but he didn’t appear to be distressed by it. He was more distressed by my constant patting and attention. I had no idea what to order, we looked at the menu for a bit and Monica decided we buy a small bag and use one of the pipes we had bought earlier as a gift for her boyfriend. After that we did a bit of sightseeing, walked down the beautiful canals, took in all of the amazing buildings and marveled at how it appeared that the entire population of Amsterdam rode bicycles they seemed to have misplaced. There were chained up bicycles everywhere. We then found somewhere to have spot of lunch, I ordered an amazing cream filled pastry thing, it was divine. Then went back to the coffee shop. It had dawned on us that we may have been a little ambitious with the purchase of an entire bag, we used the pipe one last time and had a long discussion about what to do with the remainder of the bag. We decided to leave it on the table as a gift for the next person who came to sit there. We then went back to the hostel, packed our belongings and found our way back to the train station, stopping only once to get a couple of croquettes out of vending machines that sell hot food. I mean, come on. What an awesome invention.

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We made it back to Liverpool without a hitch, although there was a wee moment of panic when we couldn’t find where to catch the bus back to Manchester from; thankfully someone was around to point it out. We made it back to Manchester and unpacked and repacked, as we were going to Edinburgh to celebrate Hogmanay tomorrow!

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Christmas, Manchester Style

So it has been 6 months since my last blog, 6 MONTHS! I figure no-one even cares about my crazed inner monologue anymore; possibly not even my mother. Don’t let me down, mum. My boyfriend and I recently bought flights to England and we leave in two weeks. This time in two weeks I will be doing a rampant clean of the entire house, putting clean sheets on the bed (nothing better than coming home from holiday to clean sheets) and packing like a mad woman. I am pretty damn excited! I wanted to get one more post up before leaving. So here we go…

Christmas was fast approaching (YAY). I am one of those annoying Christmas lovers. I will walk around the house singing Christmas carols months before it is acceptable. With Christmas maybe a week or so away Sam and I had lots of planning to do. We had decided to host a Christmas dinner at his house for all our fellow kiwi friends (all two of them). We also had our little sister, Monica coming over from New Zealand, so we were quite looking forward to that. Sure I was going to miss our family’s usual Christmas antics  -which mainly include booze, food, beach and cricket – but isn’t that most people’s Christmas?? I was mainly going to miss my mum’s turkey, and by turkey I mean her delicious stuffing and gravy. But back on track. Monica.

Monica was due to arrive; Sam and I being excellent older siblings we caught a taxi to the airport and made a wicked cool welcome sign to greet her. We thought a small degree of embarrassment never goes amiss. She was appropriately embarrassed. Next we taxied home back to Sam’s house and had a good old catch up. Much similar to mine and Sam’s when I arrived in the country. Monica had bought some duty-free tequila; awesome. I love tequila (insert sarcasm font). But that was okay, I was the minority. The others love it. Having spent the better part of a day and a half travelling across the world, Monica didn’t last long. The next day we had planned to take her to the infamous Trafford Centre. This was so she could try a GBK burger and we wanted to go to Lego Land, which coincidentally is attached to the Trafford Centre. We’re all about the Trafford Centre…

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Christmas Eve rolled around. All of my flatmates and all of Sam’s flatmates were home with their families so we had our houses to ourselves. This was probably a good thing, Christmas Eve was a truly disgraceful evening. Our friend Ryan came over, we had our tequila and more than enough Carlsberg and Strongbow, a lot of kiwi music, the combination of 3 out of the 4 Jennings siblings, plus the added bonus of Ryan. Basically a disaster waiting to happen.

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I wake up on Christmas morning with an ‘OMG ITS CHRISTMAS AND I AM IN ENGLAND AND I NEED TO START COOKING’ jolt. I made a swift beeline from my bed to the shower to get ready. Mid shower I realised how horrific I felt, but a mere hangover is not going to ruin my Christmas. I run over to Sam’s house to rouse the others. I’ve always been a morning person. The others… not so much. Especially when they’re hungover.

I give the house a quick clean up, make a list and timeline for the food preparations and await patiently the arrival of Monica, Sam and Ryan. It’s present time. After presents it’s cooking time: roast chicken, roast potatoes, pigs in blankets, broccoli, peas and gravy.

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Our friend Brooke and her boyfriend Paul arrived and we tucked into the food. Despite the majority of us not feeling wonderful, we had a lovely meal and even managed to enjoy some Christmas bubbles.  We had a relatively early night as Monica and I had a bus to catch to Liverpool in the morning. We were off to Amsterdam!!

Oh and much to the disappointment of us all, it did not snow on Christmas Day

Winter Is Coming

I spent this morning sitting in a quiet room where no one talked, waiting for my name to be called so I could speak to someone for literally 45 seconds to then leave. As the first hour clicked over I was starting to get impatient, as they had taken our phones off us and I hadn’t thought to bring a book. There were also no magazines; the only form of entertainment was the muted TV which they had on CNN. As I sat there fidgeting and tapping my feet, I could only think that I could be using this time far more productively and promised myself I would get a blog that I liked finished today. So here we go, I last left you with the Rugby World Cup update, I shall now fill you in with the time up to my first Christmas in England.

First and foremost, I feel I need to express my excitement at the prospect of having a white Christmas. I was 100% certain that it was going to snow on Christmas Day – my brain couldn’t even fathom that there was quite a high chance it wouldn’t snow. It was going to snow and that was all I needed to know. So as the weather started to drastically cool down, I not only embraced it, but LOVED it. I got excited waking up to see how the frost had made teeny tiny icicles on the blades of grass, I loved being the first person to walk through the frosted grass and hear it crunch under my feet. But not to mislead you, I had seen a frost before and I had seen snow, but I had never seen an English frost (which is far better than any Auckland frost) and I had never seen fresh snow, or falling snow and I also think being in a new place, just made everything seem that much better.

The months leading up to Christmas were quite uneventful, other than a visit from my mum and step dad where we found a pet raccoon named Missy Rascal in Piccadilly Gardens, ate many pub lunches and found the most delicious Italian restaurant in Manchester (named Rosso. which we later learnt was owned by Rio Ferdinand who played for Manchester United). I had a brief trip to Preston for a 30th which my flatmate, Sophie, brought Sam and I along to. We ate our first Lancashire hotpot with braised red cabbage (it is one of the tastiest things I will ever eat) and partook in our first and only Ceilidh. This night, hands down is one of my favourite nights from my entire trip; it involved food and it involved dancing. I absolutely loved it! The morning after the Ceilidh was Sam’s birthday ,and after we arrived back in Manchester we went on an awfully long search for Eggs Benedict (a surprisingly difficult task!) through the streets of Chorlton. That evening was Sam’s birthday party and unbeknownst to him, his flatmates had changed his beach-themed party to an Australian-themed party. He thankfully saw the funny side to this. But as I was saying, other than all of that, the months leading up to Christmas were uneventful.

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As I previously mentioned, it was getting colder. I was starting to come to terms with the fact that I would wake up in the dark, arrive to work in the dark and finish work in the dark. The only thing I didn’t like about the winter was the darkness. If I didn’t leave the office on my lunch breaks, I would not see any daylight that day. But like I said, I was coming to terms with this. Another thing the winter brought that I wasn’t used to was the excited chitter-chatter that had taken over the office about the German Christmas Markets. Thankfully I didn’t need to wait too long before I found out what these markets were as everyone seemed to be in a hurry to fill me in. These markets… for the loss of a better word… were immense. They took over the streets of the city centre. Everywhere you went in the city, for the duration that the markets are on, you are no more than a 5 minute walk from one of their stalls. The markets consisted of arts and crafts, cheese, meats, sausages, Christmas trees, mulled wine, mulled cider, chocolates… I couldn’t list it all, it had everything! Trips to the markets after work to have a mulled wine became the norm and I quickly became a fan.

One morning I woke up and found it excessively hard to drag myself from my warm bed and get ready for work. I decided to just lie there and watch the rain fall on my sky light. I lay there watching the rain thinking to myself, “that is weird looking rain”. I jumped out of the covers (suddenly forgetting the cold) to stand on my bed for a closer inspection. “Ahhh, so this the fabled sleet I have heard so much about” ran through my head. I stood there for a moment or two longer, just watching. A mixture of curiosity and excitement got the better of me and I opened my window and stuck my head out. There was a whole lot of thick white stuff falling from the sky all down my street. With excitement flowing rapidly through my body, I shut the window, ran downstairs making a mixture of involuntary sounds of which I can only define as the purest form of happy and knock on Sophie’s bedroom door. She answers, knowing full well why I am there and I pretty much yell the question “SOPH, IS IT SNOWING???!!??” at her, she laughs at me and says “Yes, Anita, it is” to which I respond with more involuntary sounds of happiness (I only know that I made these sounds because I apparently woke the rest of my house up with them) and run outside. I quickly regret the decision to run outside with no shoes on, but not before I even heard myself making weird ooooohhhhhh and aahhhhing sounds and then trying to catch snow my tongue. I go back inside, don some shoes and get back out there! I stood in the snow as long as I could before I reluctantly had to start getting ready for work.

Rugby World Cup

Once again, it has been months since I did my last blog and for that I apologise wholeheartedly as I realise that some of you may be in states of withdrawal from not knowing happens next. I have spent the last few months gallivanting across the Tasman and Pacific with work and more recently across the North Island of NZ with my boyfriend’s family, who were visiting from England (major spoiler). But with Christmas fast approaching and my procrastination well and truly in play, I have woken up this Monday morning with my fingers oiled and my creative juices flowing – so here it is, the next addition to my adventure…

The months leading up to Christmas were filled with varying adventures and activities. A lot of these adventures and activities included the consumption of alcohol. For the whole of September I was consumed with the Rugby World Cup. Waking up at strange hours to watch as many of the All Blacks games as I could whilst suffering the endless taunting of ‘why on earth I had left NZ as we were hosting the World Cup’. It really was a truly tough time; I ended up watching most of the games by myself in our lounge in the early hours of the morning. My flat mates sometimes said they would watch a game with me, but ended up staying in bed. I can’t really blame them -why waste precious sleep to watch a team you don’t support? However, along came the final, which if you need some refreshing was the All Blacks v France, our arch nemesis.

I had planned to watch the final with my (Kiwi) friends Brooke and Ryan. Now I need to introduce Brooke. Ryan, you have already met.

I cannot be exact with the time-frame, so I am going to say it was within the first month of me arriving in Manchester. Sam and I had walked up to Morrisons to do a food shop and upon arriving home I jumped on Sam’s laptop and went on Facebook to find I had a new message. I opened the message up and it was from a girl named Brooke and she wrote the following ‘Hi Anita, this may seem really random, I think we were in the same year at Lynfield College, but I swear I just saw you crossing the street in Chorlton, Manchester.’ I read it again – no way was the world this small! I remembered Brooke from school and instantly accepted her friend request and responded saying something along the lines of ‘Holy shit, YES! That was me! What are you doing here?!’ So naturally we became best friends. Brooke lived about 7 minute walk from me.

Ryan worked at a pub and had arranged for us to watch the game there while it was closed. I received a call from Brooke 5 mins after the time I was due to meet her at Morrisons. I had been home for 1 hour max from an impromptu night out with my flat mates. I literally woke with a jump, mumbled to her I would be there in 5 mins and torandoed around my room trying to get dressed whilst also trying to gain some coherence. I grabbed a box of Strongbow and ran up the road certain I was still drunk. Thank goodness Brooke had had the foresight to book a taxi which was waiting for me. I jumped in with all the sorrys I could muster and was introduced to the two boys Brooke had somehow managed to drag along, an Englishmen and a Welshmen and off we went. We arrived just time to see the end of the Haka.

The game was great, yet very very stressful! I recall sitting next to Ryan in the last 10 mins of the game, clinging to his arm, mumbling that we might not win this. But we were victorious and it was great and amazing and wonderful and emotional and completely fucking awesome! We were so happy and so drunk and so retarded. I had bought some black paint and we had painted it all over ourselves. We looked really cool.

Rugby

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After we left the pub, the two boys Brooke had brought, Paul and Rob, wanted to watch the derby, Manchester United V Manchester City. Paul was a City supporter, Brooke was on the fence and I am a United supporter. I am unsure who Rob was supporting. This was a very bad day for United supporters and a great day for City supporters. However, we had just won the World Cup, so I wasn’t going to let a football game dampen my spirits.

I eventually made it home feeling tired and drained with the beginnings of a hangover in the early evening. I went to seek my congratulatory comments from  my flat mates, showered, ate and went to bed hoping to wake refreshed for work the next day. I forgot my wallet that next morning and got a £60 fine for not purchasing a tram ticket. I didn’t care, I felt horrible and just wanted to go back home and hop in bed. As I walked through the office I saw many people look at me, as if expecting some sort of victory lap, it didn’t happen. I walked to my desk, sat down and made eye contact with Dean, who grinned and said “You feeling a bit rough today then?”

I responded with a sheepish smile.

 

Job Hunting

Upon arriving home to New Zealand I got my old job back. As much as I enjoyed my job and the people I worked with, I felt that I needed to try something different. 6 months ago I started a new job, It is something I had never considered doing but timing and knowing someone within the industry has landed me where I am today; at the airport, on airport standby in my new position as a flight attendant. I am now into my third and final day of airport standby and having bought a box of Dunkin Donuts and eaten away my boredom I thought I should get on to something more productive. So here it is; my most recent blog. Probably the most boring of all blogs, yet a very necessary addition to my story. So here it is, Job Hunting. Hold on to your pants guys, cause this will be some truly thrilling stuff!

I was on my way back to Manchester having made the decision to set up home there. To be honest, this worked out perfectly, my brother was moving out into a house which was literally 80 meters up the road so I could move into his old room, pending the approval of the other flat mates, who agreed. I now had a house and lived with Sophie, Jules and Sarah, I also lived with a girl named Natalie whom I was yet to meet as she was off travelling the world. I was now housed and bank accounted, so time to start earning a living.

I had the plan to try something new job wise when I left NZ, I have always considered myself a people person so thought I might give sales or marketing a go. I managed to get myself an interview with a sales company, the very charming Australian turned Scotsman charmed me into accepting a position as a business to business sales rep. I had no idea what this meant and found I was in for quite the shock on the first day. I turned up dressed in my best business attire, ready to tackle the day’s challenges and make a great first impression. I was greeted by a really enthusiastic girl named Kimberly, she gave me a quick rundown of the product we were selling; A pamper day at one of Manchester’s gold star salons. The day included a haircut, colour, blow wave, bubbles and a photoshoot. We were then bundled into a car and and drove to a little town outside of Manchester called Pudsey. It was a very cute little town with one main street, Kimbelry and I would start at one end and the other two people we were with would start at the other and we would meet half way. We started going into all of the businesses on this main street to sell our product to the staff working.

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It was a long, tiring day and to my dismay, Kimberly was one of those people who apparently doesn’t need food to function. We finally stopped for a lunch break after visiting countless businesses and selling nothing. During lunch Kimberly gave me a breakdown of how the company worked and how the wages worked. Long story short, you got paid £25 per voucher you sold. I had warning bells by this point but stupidly thought “you know what, I will give it a go”. One week later with a massive earning of £25, I regretfully resigned.

I then signed up with some recruitment agents and went for a job interview at a place called Merlin Claims. I have always worked in insurance, so after branching out and it not working and my money tree quickly running bare, I didnt have the option to be picky. The interview went well and I got a 6 month contract with Merlin Claims within their First Notification of Loss (FNOL) team. It was an inbound call centre for people lodging their insurance claims. Quite a step down from what I was previously doing at home, but it was a job and all of the people I worked with seemed nice.

My first day came around, I once again donned my best business attire and was welcomed with what I expected on a first day. An organised office, friendly faces and a tour of the building, this of course included the kitchen so I knew where to make a brew (what the north of England refer to as a cup of tea, not a beer as I originally thought). I was then introduced to Dean, who I was to sit with for the first few days to get some understanding of the role. Dean welcomed me nicely and I was more than happy to sit with him. Turns out Dean was a really lovely guy and we got on well. He was the first to start teasing me from being from New Zealand and make fun of my accent, this quickly caught on and I suffered endless mockery from my work peers (all kindhearted of course). I quickly found that I was making friends with the boys in the office Dean, Joel, Nick, Gabe and Dan were the usual culprits. And I would rotate between the 5 of them during our lunch hour. Thinking back, I am now no longer surprised at how this wasn’t received particularly well with the other girls in the office. But I was only “just friends” with them all.

When Dean and I went on lunch, we had no real pattern, just what we felt like on the day. Be that a pub lunch, Burger King or a Tesco lunch and we would chat about this and that.

Joel and I would usually spend much of the day emailing about what we wanted to eat that day, Joel liked to show me around and take me to places I hadn’t eaten at before. He introduced me to pop up market that came every fortnight or so. They made yummy burgers and soup.

Nick and I would go to China town and find and the cheapest, most spicy packet of noodles we could find. If we didn’t go to China Town we would go to a buffet Chinese lunch and stuff our faces and wash it down with a suitably cheap beer.

Gabe and I also ate noodles, We probably mainly ate noodles. He would then talk at me about all of his martial arts and video games. He was like an inappropriate big brother.

Dan, much the same as Joel. We would email at length about what food we wanted to eat at lunch. He was also keen to show me around and take me to new places. However, we usually ended up at the pub on our lunch breaks and two pints later return to work with a fresh beer induced merriness. I am not sure that our boozy lunch breaks were “office knowledge” but there were definitely some sideways glances made in our direction when we returned from these.

So there we are, I was employed, I was excited about getting some money and being able to jet off to Europe every other weekend or so (oh how naive I had been…). I was excited about making some friends,  and excited about the friends I had already made. Life was good, I was happy and very excited.

Londontown

It’s Wednesday today, and having spent my weekend and week thus far bedridden with illness, I am starting to see the light. I actually got dressed today and put on some make up – life is seriously looking up! Of course, being ill has it perks; being home alone for one, and secondly I can watch whatever I like, so naturally I watched one of my all time favourite films, Centre Stage. Please do not judge me on this. I spent my childhood and most of my teenage years at dance classes, so naturally the film has always had a high ranking. However, I shall get back on track. I believe I was heading to London.

I was on my way to Manchesters Piccadilly Station (I am not sure why there are two Piccadilly stations in England) feeling rather anxious, I hadn’t been there before and I was worried about being able to pick up my tickets. I found a ticket machine, and followed the on screen instructions to print my tickets. I say tickets (plural) as for whatever reason it gave me 6 different pieces of ticket. Why so many? I found which platform I needed to go to and then went and bought some food for journey, a cheese and tomato baguette. The train pulled up, I got on all excited and found my seat. I was sitting at a table, this meant that other people were likely going to be sitting at this table as well. There were, and I was instantly jealous of one of the two men who sat down opposite me as he had a bag of Burger King (I had already eaten my baguette). I mentioned as soon as the man took his seat that I was jealous of his food, and to my horror, he actually offered his Burger King to me. I politely refused.  Having unintentionally broken the ice with this chap, I decided I should talk to him instead of awkwardly trying to avoid eye contact for the good two hour journey. He was very pleasant and gave me directions on how to get to my tube once I got to Euston Station. Turns out that one of my many tickets was a tube ticket – it was all starting to make sense.

I had arranged to meet up with my friend,  Jordan. He and I went to school together and may or may not have had crushes on each other that may or not have resulted in a wee romance prior to both him and I leaving NZ. He lived in Clapham South with some more friends from home. I arrived at Victoria Station where Jordan and I had agreed to meet, I had text him to say I had arrived and it took a few minutes for him to give up looking for me based on my terrible text and call me to get a better description of where I was. I ran up to Jordan, gave him a hug and we set off on our way. We went back to his house, dropped off my belongings and he took me on a guided tour of London. There was a lot of walking that day, we caught the tube back into town and the tour began, we went to Piccadilly Circus, walked along the Thames, walked through Hyde Park, saw Buckingham Palace, walked through Soho, saw the London Eye, got some ice cream, saw a lot of cute squirrels, I made friends with a man who was feeding the squirrels (he shared some of his squirrel food with me).

We were having dinner with Jordan’s dad that evening, so having worked up a suitable appetite from all our walking we made our way over to his apartment. Jordan’s dad made lamb chops with green beans, mashed potato and gravy (delish). The evening was very pleasant and it was lovely to see Jordans dad again, we left full and happy. We had planned to go out that night so en route back to Jordans we stopped to get some drinks and Jordan pointed out an area that might have foxes in it later. I was excited for the foxes and was hugely disappointed to find on our way home later that night that there were no foxes. The next day Jordan, myself and Jordan’s childhood friend and flatmate, Will, went to the Camden Markets. I loved Camden Markets! Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling 100% due to the night before, but I still loved it. The food section was my favourite, and all the stalls had tasters of everything. It was awesome! There was one shop that really stood out. It was a rave shop, we went in and proceeded to head down about 3 flights of stairs. Every storey stocked different themed rave attire with different music blaring, it was insane and I am doing a terrible job at describing  it so will stop. I spent the rest of my time in London just hanging out at Jordans house, it was really nice to see some familiar faces and it was great to see Jordan. London had made a lasting impression; there were people everywhere, everything was expensive, it was beautiful and fun and exciting and I had loved it, and I easily could have lived there. But I didn’t want to live with people I could have lived with back at home, I wanted to have a real English experience;  I wanted to have English friends, I didn’t want to hang out with a heap of Aussies and Kiwis. So on the train ride home I made the decision to stay in Manchester and make sure I visited London every now and then.

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So I am currently lying in bed, texting my best friend to arrange how we are going to spend today. My best friend, Blair, is moving to the UK on Friday (almost three years to the day that I left). Why the little shit couldn’t have sorted this out in time to come with me, I will never know. However, it does give me even more of an excuse to go back and visit. So from planning our day I have started thinking about all the amazing adventures he gets to go on, all the interesting people he is going to meet and how he is absolutely going to have the time of his life. I now need to relive my time through my blog to keep any envious thoughts at bay.

I woke up once during the night to hear Sam saying to someone that he thought I had lasted pretty well, I went back to sleep thinking ‘yeah I am tough’. 12 hours later I surfaced, showered, got dressed and ate some breakfast. Sam and I walked to a bus station and caught the bus to the Trafford Centre. I had never heard of the Trafford Centre. I understood it was a mall and like all malls confined all of life’s necessities inside one large building. I was happy with this. I could set up a bank account – and do some shopping. We arrived; this place was not so much a mall, but huge marble and gold palace. To this day I am confused as to what the Trafford Centre is trying to be. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Trafford Centre – I went to my very first Topshop, ate my very first GBK (Gourmet Burger Kitchen, a kiwi burger chain that is only in the UK), visited my very first Lego Land. The place had it all. I just… don’t understand it.

I now knew how to get to the Trafford Centre and back; this was my saviour in the comings days once Sam had gone back to work and I was bored.

I spent the next few days looking at jobs, sleeping, and exploring. I learnt how to use the tram (only once did I get on the wrong tram and end up in Eccles) so I could also get into town now too. I had one minor set-back, ( I think it was the first day Sam had gone back to work) I went to the Trafford Centre to get a laptop.

I had chosen one during my previous trip so only had to go into the store and pay for it. I swiped my card, ‘processing payment’ pops up, and then it declined. This deeply concerned me as I knew I had more than enough money to pay for this, I tried again, same thing happened. I went to an ATM to try and withdraw cash, it wouldn’t let me. By this point I was starting to stress a tiny bit, I had no cash on me, no credit on my phone and apparently no means of accessing my money. I figured it was something to do with my bank, was there a limit as to how many times I can use my card overseas? I decided I needed to call the bank, I tried to top my phone up at Vodafone, warning them it may not work, but because it was a far smaller purchase I decided it might work. It didn’t, and they even tried to take my card off me, thankfully I had my passport handy so I was able to prove it was mine. I rummaged together any coins I had and found a pay phone to call my bank. I got so far as talking to a lady who said my account had been frozen before I ran out of change and the call ended. I felt very lost at this point. I was stranded somewhere completely foreign to me, with no money at all. I was relieved to see that I had bought a return bus fare so I went straight home.

 It took a few days to get the cashflow issue sorted. It turns out that when your card is being used out of the ordinary, the bank monitors it, and if a purchase over a certain amount is made your account will automatically freeze.

Happy to have my life back on track I bought tickets to go down to London and visit some friends for a long weekend and suss the place out.

 

England

I am sat home alone a Tuesday morning, bored out of my brain. Its only 11am. So instead of studying (what I am meant to be doing) I shall carry on with my adventure.

As previously mentioned, I was meeting up with my brother, Sam, who was living in Manchester; he was about 8 months ahead of me in his travels. He wanted me to bring duty free alcohol for us to celebrate our reunion. I cannot express enough how much I did not want to celebrate with alcohol. I was a ruined woman – Vegas had truly destroyed me – yet being a dutiful little sister I obeyed his command.

I had a 9 hour flight into Manchester, and even though I was exhausted, I was very much excited for my next adventure. I was so excited to see Sam and for him to show me around. My plan was to fly into Manchester, stay there for a week or so and then move down to London. I was very confused as to Sams decision to move to Manchester; it was just strange, everyone who moves to the UK lives in London, its just how its done.

I arrived in Manchester, Sam was there waiting for me, I gave him a hug, chucked the duty free at him and off we went. He kindly offered to take my big suitcase and I carried my smaller one. We got on the train to head into town, I am sure Sam will have had to sit there for the duration and listen to me rave about Vegas. We got to town and then walked to our tram station, during this walk Sam asked if I was hungry, and he nipped into a place called ‘Greggs’ and came out with sausage rolls and water. He passed me a sausage roll and said “I am so happy this is the first thing you are going to eat here” I took a bite, processed the flavours and decided I loved it. He was happy, he also loved these sausage rolls and they only cost 60p! However, I soon learnt that Greggs didn’t keep their food warm, I once got a sausage roll and it was cold, the layer of grease it left in my mouth was a lesson learnt, only buy warm Greggs.

We arrived at his house, Sam lived in a cute little village called Chorlton. I was seriously lost by this point. We had trained, walked, trammed and then walked some more, I had no idea which direction was what and no idea where I was. It didn’t matter though, I was here now and being lost is part of it. I think by the time we got home it was around 1pm, so we had ample drinking time. I was introduced to one of Sams flat mates, Jules. He seemed nice and said he would join us for a drink. We then nipped up the road to the supermarket to get some mixer and some food. I love supermarkets, I love them a lot, so my first trip to Morrisons was exciting! Especially seeing as there were so many foreign foods I was yet to encounter and try. I was happy!

Chorlton
Chorlton

We made it back home, set up some seats outside (it was summer), set up some sounds (Sublime and Fat Freddys Drop I believe it was) and started to catch up properly. Sam had started his trip off in Germany and had been working on his friends girlfriends family farm type thing. Sam had traveled over with his friend Ryan, who was due to meet up with us that same evening. Ryan arrived and we continued to chat, I think I lasted until  9pm before the jet lag and general exhaustion took me. I excused myself and went off to bed, the next day I was going to get bank account and other such things sorted. I would class this as an admin day, essential but boring. I was so looking forward to my first proper nights sleep in a week and looking forward to what tomorrow would bring.

The adventure continues

Having been to Melbourne AND Fiji in the last month (lavish life I lead, I know) I postponed this blog as I’ve only wanted to write about the F1 and the beach, but that will have to come in due course. So after a delightful long weekend of exceptional laziness (which I am actually proud of), I shall start where I left off…

We had arrived home from the wedding to see the first mornings light, straight to bed we went. The exceptionally early start was a real treat, the ruminants from the night before getting us through. Up we got, half-zombiefied, we dressed for the occasion and met up with Gordon and Lisa. The tour was set out as follows:

Hop on bus, watch video on bus about the Hoover Dam, stop at Mcdonalds (very very very warmly welcomed), back on bus, stop at first stop of Grand Canyon, stop at second stop of Grand Canyon, stop at third stop of Grand Canyon, head back to Las Vegas, stop at Hoover Dam.

From memory, I cannot be 100% sure, but I am pretty sure the day all up was 12 hours. So naturally a great opportunity to catch up on some well needed, not so much deserved sleep.

The Grand Canyon was amazing! I saw my very first squirrel (the beginning of my squirrel obsession). I then saw many more squirrels, they ate from my hand and my heart melted (this moment of my life only compares to the first time I saw a fox). The Canyon itself was incredible, Emma and I took many photos sitting on the edges of cliffs, standing on one leg on cliffs and jumping on cliffs, I recall Lisa not being thoroughly impressed with this behavior, bless her.283527_10150264151703225_385386_n

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The Grand Canyon is awesome!

After milling around and exploring all the stops at the canyon, it was time to head back to town, as I mentioned earlier, this involved a stop at the Hoover Dam.

By the time we got to Hoover Dam, the sun was starting set and we were all rather exhausted. It was still an incredible thing to see.

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So, this more of less sums up my Las Vegas trip, my first proper overseas adventure. I loved it. Every single minute of it. And I cannot wait to go again. I was lucky enough to experience it with some wonderful people who helped make it what it was.

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A few extra photos that help sum up the trip.

It was time to leave, as everyone had different travel plans from this point, we all went our separate ways. I was alone again, had many hours to kill before my flight to Manchester. I got in touch with my brother, who was living in Manchester (I don’t think I have mentioned my brother yet, I will fill in these gaps in my next blog) to make sure he was meeting me at the airport, he was. He made a special request that I purchase a bottle of Jagermeister duty free for us to drink together upon my arrival……

 

My travels, Vegas

I found myself wandering around aimlessly. No purpose, just taking everything in. The first thing I noticed was the heat. It was hot far beyond anything I had ever experienced. After leaving the comforts of an air conditioned building to go outside, you walk into a dense wall of thick heat. The second, the strip is a maze. It is not a normal street you can walk up and down. There you are, walking along and a four-laned escalator appears in front of you blocking your path, you have no choice but to go up it. All of a sudden you are crossing a bridge taking you to the other side of the street. There is no downward escalator, and at the other side, you are greeted with Caesars’ Palace.  You have to go in. Caesars is huge: its a mall within a hotel essentially. Restaurants, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, all of the brands, all of the major label shops. As I was still exploring I wanted to find my way out, quickly, without spending money I didn’t really have on a pair of Jimmy Choo’s.

Finding my way out of Caesar’s….. That was a task within itself, dear god! However, I eventually made way out – and without boring you with more lonesome exploring – we will speed up to when Emma arrived.

There they were, my uncle, my aunty, and my beloved cousin, Emma. Finally conversation, finally sleep, finally companionship. Hugs and pleasantries were passed. Gordan and Lisa (uncle and aunty) sped off and left us to it. Vegas was ours! We dumped our stuff in our room. Our room was very pink, and the mirror in the bathroom had a TV in it. Two double beds and a small fridge. All we needed. And we were off out. Without any sleep.

The next six days followed a very strict routine of,  a very brief sleep, waking up for 9am, shower, change, breakfast, explore, drink, shop, explore, drink, get home, nap (ever so briefly), get changed, go out again, drink some more, and some more, and some more, get home at sunrise, sleep. Emma was machine, I have never in my life been more impressed at someone’s discipline when it comes to sleeping. she timed our naps, then made us get up. She set her alarm in the morning, we got up.

We caught on pretty quick that walking down the street with a 40oz slushy margarita was the way to go. Refreshing, yet intoxicating. Plus, you can drink everywhere there. Its great; no one even looks at you disapprovingly.

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There were many a good times had over those 6 days. One in particular really stands out. It so happens that coincidentally one of my friends was going to be in Vegas at the same time as us. The night Emma, Chadley and I went out together was and still is one of my best nights ever.

The night began with us spending the day together and buying outfits for our night out. We pre-drank, got merry, and went out.

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We found this club: $5 entry for girls, with an open bar until midnight. Here the chaos began.

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We danced, we danced on poles, we danced with boys, made friends with boys. We fell upstairs (ever so gracefully) to dance on said poles. We left $5 club, we found a motor bike simulator. We went on that, made a simulator movie being bank robbers. We ran away from boys we met in $5 club. Found another club that had salsa dancing, danced some more, danced with sleazy men at salsa club, ran away from sleazy men. Wound up in another club where there were almost naked girls dancing in nets hanging from the roof. Blur, blur, blur I am now wearing a bikini top outside my clothes running though a casino, blur, blur, blur……. In a diner chatting to some Australian, Emma and Chadley are no where in sight. Its time for bed, Emma and Chadley are there waiting for me, phew. The next day was terrible. We went to some outlet mall with my aunty and uncle. The three of us were pathetic and very very very unwell. We thought a foot massage might help. It was the worst foot massage ever. I haven’t mentioned, you will do an astonishing amount of walking in Vegas, your feet will hate you. The massage only aggravated my feet’s hatred.

The hens night came and went, nothing major to report there. It was fun and we went on a roller coaster, we ate Wendy’s… lots of times.

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Then the night of the wedding..

My cousin Sarah looked stunning; I spent most of the ceremony trying not to cry. After the ceremony, Mark and Sarah went off to get photos, that left the remaining bunch of us in the suite, with food and alcohol. Yes, yet again we drank, champagne after champagne after champagne. We misbehaved and went and played in the lifts: lift races and such things. Mark and Sarah were welcomed back to a pleasantly rowdy wedding party.

We hit the casino. Roulette was the game. I gambled other people’s money, it was awesome. The casino staff kept bringing us free drinks, vodka and red bull; that too, was awesome. Then I heard one of the guests say something about Vince Vaughan. Well, I jumped from my chair and bound, skipped, twirled and leapt across the casino (ever so elegantly) to greet him. Needless to say, he was super impressed, but alas, wouldn’t take a photo. The night was nearing an end, we were off to the Grand Canyon in the morning, so we called it a night. We went back to our hotel, just in time to see the first mornings light, to be up again for 6:30 to face our next adventure.