Casa’s Blog

A Life Abroad

Do you have to let it linger? Do you have to, do you have to,

Today I finally crossed over in to my third “proper” country of my journey (UK and Hong Kong being the only places I had previously set foot).  I got up, had a shower, made the most of the cheap and good quality breakfast at the hostel (Scrambled Eggs…again  :P) and headed off to the bus station.  The Europa bus station had been where I had arrived in Belfast City, so returning had an interesting bookend type feel to my time in Belfast.  It felt a little less safe though after my black cab tour guide had reliably informed me that the Europa hotel above the bus station has the record of the most bombed hotel still operating in the WORLD haha.

My trip on the bus was really easy. Buying a ticket was even easier than buying a Metcard in Melbourne….as there was actually a staffed ticket office and all I had to do was say “Dublin please” and hand over my £11.50.  The bus was on time, was really  clean and only took 2 and 3/4 hours.

It does make me think that if you gave anyone £30.00 anywhere in Europe, by train, bus or plane they could get to anywhere else in Europe, to any number of countries.  It is quite amazing and different from Australia.

There wasn’t a visible sign, that I saw, of  Welcome to Ireland-proper (or the republic as they call it over here), but you knew you crossed the border as there were a few give aways. Firstly the roadsigns started being in both English and Irish, they were blue and all distances went from miles to kilometers – Ireland is definitely Europe ;).  We also had to undergo an immigration check…which was the bus pulling over at some point in the road that appeared random, 2 jokesters of  guys walking on and checking your ID  cards or Passport by a quick glimpse – no need to even hand them over.

I am staying at Jacob’s Inn Hostel which is luckily located right opposite the road from the bus station.  Literally!  It is a rather large building, clean and appears to be okay.  Due to prices being higher in Dublin than anywhere else I am in a 10 bed dorm for 4 nights and a 12 bed for Friday and Saturday nights.  It appears to be okay…but I’ll let you know how it goes after my first night’s sleep!  I have already learnt that the cafe is a ripoff…charging me €9 for 200ml of coke and okayish 9 inch pizza just isn’t on.  Especially when there appears to be a lot of different, cheaper restaurants in my area just north of the river.

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Anyway, I have decided that I will go on my walk around Dublin in a second after I checked a few things and tried to plan out my week here (and of course wrote this post!).  There is a cheap (€0.5 an hour) internet cafe just around the corner of the hostel which is awesome!  My first impressions of Dublin though are that it is another industrial city, a little more similar to Melbourne in layout – especially as it is built along a river, but it appears to be a fun, grimy kind of place!  Again…whether those impressions last will be interesting!

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March 31, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

If tomorrow never comes, Will she know how much I loved her…

So today I got out of Belfast, having experienced a fair amount of a city younger than Melbourne, and went on a tour to experience the “rest” of Northern Ireland.  In particular I think they refer to the area we went as the Atrium Coast.  Any fear that I would once again be doing a one on one tour were put at ease…by a completely full coach that departed at 10am this morning.

Our first stop was just a photo stop.  It was at Carrickfergus castle which is just 20 mins from Belfast.  It was probably “just a castle” from the outside. But as the statue of William of Orange out the front suggests it played an important role in laying the foundations of the Protestant vs Catholic dispute that engulfed Belfast.  It was here that William of Orange first landed to defeat the Catholic king.

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We then drove along some really nice coast line. Our guide/driver for the day was very insightful as he explained a little story or anecdote about most of the tiny little towns we past through…and there were a LOAD of them.  It was great though as it was sunny (yes…sunny in ireland!!!) so much so that I  regreted not having my sunnies with me.  Also, the coastal drive gives you a great perspective of how close Ireland is to Scotland (about 12 miles at the closest point!)  You can literally see the coastline and smell the Tennants 😛

After having another quick photo/drink stop in Carnlough we went a little inland.  We went inland to go to the Bushmills Distillery -the oldest license d whisky distillery in the world.  We didn’t have enough time to take the tour, but I was able to learn the difference between Scotch and Irish Whisky as well as down some of the very nice 12 year old Whisky Reserve.  It continues my observation that I usually HATE whisky (irish or scottish) or bourbon…but if you have “the good stuff” or the accurate stuff – you see what they are all talking about.  It was very nice

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It was as we were leaving the Bushmills Distillery that the weather turned “irish”.  The winds picked up out of no where, the sun disappeared and the light showers took its place.  It was a little disappointing as after taking a quick photo of Dunlace Castle, we arrived at the main attraction of the tour – and Northern Ireland – the giants causeway.  It is a quite impressive geological formation (although the Irish story telling tradition suggests it is the work of Giant’s ;)).  It may be more beautiful if you aren’t freezing your *coughs* off or if you are not trying not to be blown off the edge of the cliff…but I don’t know if you could ever get such weather in Ireland.  Thankfully there was a local hotel, a Guiness and some fudge bought from the gift shop to warm me back up.  (Yes I know….I am really addict to fudge!!  It is just available all of the UK!!!).

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Our final stop was at Carrick-a-rede…its another coastal town but it has a difference.  It has a rope bridge stretching 50ft over a 80 ft gap in the rocks.  Bravely (or stupidly) I went across and it actually wasn’t too bad.  Yes I am still very afraid of heights but I swear I will prove I can manage that fear by the end of the this year haha.  It was also helpful that I wasn’t the most afraid.  An american woman and an 11 year old Irish boy both needing to be helped back (It seems that they forget that once you go over…the only way back is back over the bridge haha).

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It was then a sleepy busride and back to Belfast.  I am quite exhausted after a long day so just read the paper and about to go find some food (I must admit the fish and chips I have already had twice for dinner or the KFC on the corner are looking inviting for my tired legs).  Then tomorrow it is up and off to Dublin.  I haven’t booked a ticket (as the info desk ppl at the Belfast Welcome Centre said that it wasn’t any cheaper and the bus wouldn’t be packed), but we will see how that goes.  The bus runs hourly though…so at least some time tomorrow I will be in Dublin.  My home for the next week or so!

March 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Every night in my dreams I see you. I feel you.

Today started early, as most days in a hostel do. My night’s sleep was pretty good…no lights turned on at 2am or loud drunks at 4am. I came downstairs for breakfast. Now I am not a big breakfast person and even when it is included I don’t necessarily eat it. At this hostel though they have the ‘Causeway Cafe’ and it is great. I had OJ and Scrambled Eggs on toast. It only cost me about 3 quid and was freshly prepared. Brill food and a great start to the day.

I then walked around the city for a bit, as I booked a taxi cab tour for 10am and had an hour to kill. It was good as it was bright/sunny and thus I got to see Belfast from a different angle than the ‘dark and gloomy’ angle I saw it from yesterday. My tour though will probably be the highlight of Belfast…if not of the Ireland trip….if not of my time away. It was THAT good.

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Now, the cab tours can be a little expensive. When I rang up and booked it they warned ‘the single university student’ that it may be a little pricey – 30 pounds. Now 30 pounds sounds a lot but it is well worth it. I got a private, personalised, Black Cab tour from an INCREDIBLY knowledgeable man (His name was “too irish” for me to get it haha). When I got in he asked what I wanted to see. I said I wanted a political viewpoint of the city…I am politically minded but know nothing about the Northern Ireland situation. And that is what I got. My guide was a 40 year old Catholic man so his stories, tales and information were not only so detailed but had a personal slant to it. He showed me HIS local police station, which looks like a prison its that big. He showed me the numerous murals both on his side and the protestant side – pointing out that he only crossed the peace wall for the first time 1 and a 1/2 years ago. Not only did he show you the murals but he was able to explain the meanings and significance of them. Whether they were about the survival of the Irish language, a particular battle or even that the “top gun” reference in a Protestant mural meant he killed the most Catholics in a year.

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It was a really moving tour. I saw the peace wall from all angles. I saw the window less catholic houses that face the gates in the wall. I saw the bullet holes in an old catholic primary school. I saw the old court house and prison that held the catholic prisoners of the conflict I saw everything someone would need to see to attempt to understand the conflict.

The one theme that seemed to be coming out in the catholic view point was, what he called, twinning. Murals and stories all related Irish suffering to others who have/are suffering. Murals of the hunger strikes from the 70s and 80s are ringed with Mandela, Luther King Jnr and Ghandi. The international mural wall gives an insight into how the catholic Irish associate with the oppression felt by those of Gaza. My guides points about the hypocrisy of America viewing the Iraqi’s as “insurgents” while celebrating their own liberation on July 4th every year was an interesting counter point.

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I am not sure if the above reads coherently or is a bit of a ramble, but it was an amazing eye-opening experience. I also give credit for my guide making the point to try and give the Protestant side of things. One thing that was clear though is that this is not an historical conflict…it is alive. The peace wall was heightened just 10 years ago. The no-mans land between the catholics and protestants has now had houses built…but nobody lives there and they are ruined. The recent attacks by the IRA prove this better than my words could…but around the Catholic side of town “free colin duffy” graffitti is visible. Colin Duffy is one of the people charged with the murder of the policeman in those attacks…this conflict is not dead.

The strange feeling I had through out the tour was that….I wonder if similar tours will run through Iraq, through Gaza, through Congo any time soon.

After that eye opening experience I had a coffee, lunch in a pub (yes again it was Guinness) but it was a good slice of Pizza as its companion today. Pizza made ever so irish by the use of Soda bread.

I then went on the “Belfast Historical Walking Tour”. I had checked the day before that it wouldn’t sell out and any fears I may have had of a large group were put at ease. In the end it was just me and my somewhat elderly, but incredibly smart and well spoken, guide Hilda. The one on one tour for 6 quid was a bargain in my books. Hilda was able to give me a different history of Belfast. She hardly mentioned the conflict at all. In 90 minutes she explain how Belfast was founded as a town, then became a city under Queen Victoria (no wonder they love her!!!) and also was able to give perspectives of why things are the way they are. She explained that Belfast is industrial, always has been…but also what the industries are and why. Hilda even explained why the fact the Titanic was built here has such an emotive connection for the Belfast people. She was also able to give me a raft on information explaining what I had already seen in my wandering around the city. It was a really good tour!

After the tour, I took Hilda’s advice and skipped paying for the Belfast wheel as I had planned to. In the new Victoria Square shopping centre you can get a better view from the top of the dome…and it is free. It was a good view too as today was sunny with good visibility.

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I have now retired to my hostel. I read the paper for an hour, will go get dinner sometime and maybe stop in to a pub to watch some soccer at some point. I need to get an early night’s sleep tonight though as it is the start of summer time and the clocks move forward an hour. Something I have to make sure to take notice of…as I have booked a tour to the Giants Causeway tomorrow. Knowing my luck I may be the only person on that one too haha (although that is extremely unlikely!).
P.S As I am on an internet cafe here…I don’t have time to proof read this so any unreadable parts are not my fault 😛

P.P.S GO LIONS….1 from 1. Go Vossy your a gun coach! 😀

March 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Hey where did you go, days when the rain came, Down in the hollow, playin a new game. Laughin and a runnin, skippin and a jumpin…

So WOOOO I’m in Belfast.  I’ll start at the beginning as that is a good a place as any to start.  My flight left from Leeds Bradford International airport at about 1:15pm.  I say about because I am not sure…it was supposed to be 1:15 but most flights were delayed and my phone was off so I am not sure when we actually left.  A couple of things surprised me about the flight. Firstly, it was over before it began.  It took only 45 mins to cross most of England and the Irish Sea and land in Belfast :O  Also, my Jet2 flight was 3/4s empty.  Seriously, it felt like if I had bought a friend I would have doubled the occupancy.

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My first view of Northern Ireland, from above, was that it was really green.  As green as it is supposed to be if you watch enough TV 😉 This was only confirmed as the 45 min bus ride from the airport (yes notice how it was the SAME TIME as the flight itself!!!) went through the country side and it looked very GREEN! 😛

Belfast itself though its quite an industrial city. My hostel (Belfast International Hostel) sits on what I think is the south side of the town…but my geography is a little stuffed.  It is a big hostel that has a “mass produced” feeling about it.  It is cheap about about a tenner a  night, but still I think had this not been the first hostel I ever booked (even before I went to Edinburgh, Wales, etc) I may have chosen better.  I have higher hopes for Cork and Killarney especially!
When I arrived in Belfast…get this…it was sunny!  They have 1 hour of sun a year and it was my first impression. Unfortunately, after I had dropped off my bags in the hostel, the sun was gone 😦  In fact the sun was gone and the rain and wind were here in force.  Believe what they tell you about the weather here haha.

I decided to do what I always do in a new city and just walk around to get my bearings…even though it was raining.  Now at this point I will point out that I will add photos to this post when I am back in Leeds (this being my first internet cafe post ;)).  As I said before, the city is industrial but it does have some charm to it.  The city hall and Albert Memorial Clock are particularly impressive.

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I did though suffer a familar fate on my ‘walk’, being that I got lost LOL. I had planned for this though and got a map at the airport.  As I was finding my back to where I remembered I did make one observation though.  Belfast-ians LOVE the Titianic.  If you don’t know, the Titanic was built here and with the amount of posters, tourist sites, etc about it, you would almost think the bastard made it threw one journey without sinking 😛  I am a little intrigued by the Titanic Boatyards Museum thingo…and may check that out on Sunday if I have time.

I spent the rest of my arvo in pubs. First in Lavery’s (drinking my first Guiness over this side of the water that will be pictured below eventually) watching the English ODI side get killed.  Then in Benedicts having another Guiness watching DHuss dominate in the 20/20 game for Australia – I moved pubs to watch the Australian cricket 😉

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Anyway, after a fish and chip dinner (cod and chips with salt and vinegar to be precise…and somewhat British haha) I am here.  Not much else will happen tonight.  I am tired after a day of travel and want to fit in a full day tomorrow.  I stopped in at the tourist centre and know at least 2 tours I want to do.

On that note though I am off 🙂

March 28, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Hey, get your car washed today, Fill up and you don’t have to pay..

I wonder what the proper etiquette is for communal laundries.  Generally everybody’s first thought is to attempt to not acknowledge anybody’s existance.  You look anywhere they aren’t and you try to get in and out as fast as possible.   Most likely this is because they, like you, are wearing you last shred of clean clothes (which makes all the wrong fashion statements), feels awkward having their underwear and the like in clear sight and generally it is a task they enjoy as much as you do.  Now that makes sense.

But what happens in the bizarre circumstances that force human interaction in this unlikely place.  The first common occurance is the “Every machine is full scenario”.  Now if all machines are running and they are full, it is simple you either wait (rookie mistake) or just come back later.  The issue arises when some, if not all, of the full machines have finished their cycle. What do you do?  Do you take them out and put them on top of the machines?  Do you take them out and put them in a dryer?  Do you wait around in the hope they will be back soon? Do you ask the people around if they know the people who own the washing? or if you are me, do you bail and come back later when a spot has opened up?  Either way you try to avoid any situation that might cause a conversation or worse…touching someone else’s jocks 😛

Now the other kind of scenario is that most interesting to me, because human interaction isn’t forced, but it is desired.  This is when you go to do your washing (or just place clean clothes in the dryer) and there is a “someone” there.  You probably don’t know them, but they are cute enough for you to want to say hi.  But how do you say hi in such an awkward place?  It is especially awkward as the risks of making an ass of yourself are tripled as you live in the same building as them 😉 9 times out of 10 I will go with the “no eye contact and bail” approach…but there is one scenario that I will take up.  If help is required then that is a great opportunity for a ‘hi’ without making a true ass of oneself.  For example, do they not know how to work the machine?  Is their washing basket too heavy for them to carry?  All good opportunities…but just be careful not to end up grab some item of clothing that will embarrass you and them 😉
Anyhow…Belfast awaits!

March 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Oh, we’re from Tigerland, A fighting fury, we’re from Tigerland…

So today was a good and bad day.

It was a good day because its the day before I go on holiday to Ireland(from my holiday which is a nice 3 degrees of separation thing as Steve pointed out haha). It was bad because I spent my day doing a boring assignment for Comparative European Legal Systems.  It was good that I finished though 😛

It was a good day because it was the first day of the football season – FOOTY IS BACK!  It was bad because Richmond, who I have a developed a soft spot for over the past few years, got killed.  It was even worse that Carlton won and I HATE Carlton!  I am unsure whether the Ben Cousins’ hamstring was good or bad though because although it proved Brisbane partially right for not selecting him due age/hamstring issues, it was bad for Richmond :/

It was a good day because a new episode of South Park came out (Margaritaville) which was brilliant and quite poignant about the global financial crisis.  It was bad because I was watching South Park while doing a load of clothes washing and you know how much I hate washing!!!

As I said…it was a good and bad day.  However, I know one thing for certain.  Tomorrow is going to be a brilliant day *too be sure too be sure* 😀

March 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Agnus dei, Agnus dei Qui, tollis peccata mundi…

Today was/has been a quite productive day.  I got up as early as I could (at 8:30am) and was out of the house by 9:30.  I had a few errands that needed to be run.  Firstly I headed off to the Brotherton Library at uni to get the Comparative European Legal Systems text.  I borrowed it for tomorrow as it basically outlines in 10 pages what I need to say in my essay I am writing tomorrow.  I am reading those pages and writing my plan in a few minutes time with tomorrow, my last day in Leeds for a while, dedicated to writing that essay (which will have my assignments 2/3rds finished :D).

I then headed to ‘Poundstretcher’ which is different from ‘Poundland’ in that all the items are still cheap, but unfortunately it is not a case of “everything costs a pound” haha.  I needed to go there because I was purchasing a cheap suitcase (it cost me 15 quid in the end). Now of course I have a suitcase here as I needed one to get here, but it is rather large so for two month of travel I got one that is about half the size as in the end al it needs to fit is my clothes.  I would’ve contemplated a backpack but my back issues meant that would’ve been a dumb idea.
My last errand was to buy a printer which I again did successfully.  I even managed to find a cheap one that was missing a box so I got 10 pounds off.  It works a treat and I have now managed to print off my raft of documents I need for my travels from the comfort of my own room.  I have also managed to largely pack my suitcase but I will need to do a small load of washing tonight to make sure I have 2 weeks worth of clothes!

I’ll end today with a little anecdote.  Now I mentioned that Juz and I went to the York Castle Museum and in short it was a little bizarre…good but bizarre.  Well guess what?  When I was listening to today’s Hamish and Andy podcast the topic was weird museum pieces and someone rang up about the York Museum.  It is always good to know some people share your opinion 😉

March 26, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s always in the back of your mind. When everything is dark, still something shines. One chilly afternoon, you drew the blind..

So I’ve had a busy 24 hours but, as predicted, no work was completed.  I set off to Scarborough last night at 6:12.  When I arrived an hour or so later it turns out that we were right and it was a ‘coastal town’.  The first sign I saw when exiting the station directing my to “the seaside” confirmed it!  I waited a minute or two before Ben and his twin brother Gary picked me up and we went back to their holiday home.  I got to see a little bit of the town, but as it was dark by then it took until this morning for me to confirm that yes it is a charming kind of town.
However that wasn’t really the point.  If Scarborough the town had been the reason for my travel the cyclonic winds and rain that battered us most of the night would’ve worried me.  However, Narnia was the aim and thus after we ate some pasta we proceeded to watch the first 1/2 of the Narnia BBC miniseries from the late 80s. It was an awesome experience to relive your childhood.  You discover things that you never noticed like the fact the mythical creatures are pretty crappy 2d animation over the live action backdrop.  You notice that Lucy is quite a weird looking child, the Aslan puppet thing is actually brilliant and the acting of some of the kids is good while others are atrocious.  It also has quite a few jokes that go over your head as a child.  It was great fun.

Anyway at about 2am, after most of Narnia and a few beers we went off to bed.  The rest could wait until another day.  When we woke up though, before I headed back to catch my train back to Leeds, there was a really funny show on TV.  The title itself got us, especially as it was 10am on a Tuesday on Channel 4 – KNTV Sex.  Pure interest lead us to watch it and what it turned out to be was the weirdest kids sex education show you would ever see.  Its message was clear, and repeated every 15 seconds.  Condoms good, STIs bad.  However, it also had a ex-soviet union theme that was random.  Random use of  “Funniest home videos” type clips and even more random segues in to statements that you should always use a condom.  I swear any normal school kid watching this ‘educational’ show may have ended up covering every inch of their body in prophylactics 24/7….just a weird show!
After I arrived back in Leeds I quickly got a subway (where the ‘artist’ proceeded to ignore all my requests of ‘no corn’ or ‘not toasted’ and ‘just a little bit of sauce’…artist my ass! haha) before meeting up with Joey.  The plan to grab coffee went ahead but we got coffee in Borders.  Why Borders you ask?  Well we were planning our trip to the USA which looks like going ahead.  In the end we have provisionally decided on spending the first two weeks of june (ish) in the USA. Flying from London to Washington DC where we spend about 2 days there. Then we train it up to New York for 6 days.  Train it to Boston for 2 days.  Ride the rails again to Buffalo (to see Niagra falls) for a night and then finish off with 3 nights or so in Toronto before flying back to London.  A quick look at the Internet means that it should only cost about $2500 max for the 2 weeks which is about 500 dollars more than I would spend in 2 weeks in Europe…pretty good deal if you ask me 🙂

This now means that I will probably do Copenhagen and Stockholm before the USA.  Do my 9 days or so in Prague from the 15th of June (ish) and then I will do Vienna, Munich and Berlin before I go to Cardiff for Day 1 of the Ashes.  Fit in Paris of about 4 days before a couple of days in London and Day 1 of the Lords test before I head home to Australia.  A rough plan for a brilliantly hectic two weeks!!

March 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

I’ve just had the craziest week, Like a party bag of lies, booze and then deceit. And I don’t know why I want to voice this out loud, It’s theraputic somehow.

So now that Justin had departed back to Prague, I can get started in to finishing the work I need to finish before I head off to Ireland.  Today I have done most of my presentation for Comparative European Legal Systems.  I have finished the powerpoint, drafted half of my speech (The half on French law and Corsica I am writing in full to learn as I am confident enough in my knowledge of Australian law and Mabo to speech well on dot points alone).

It is a proud day of academic achievement for me though as although I slept in (as usual 😉 hehe) I resisted the urge to procrastinate when the opportunity arose.  Joey texted me saying he was in Leeds with nothing to do til 1:30 and although I REALLY wanted to go and catch up…I resisted and have now completed what I needed to complete for my studies.  Sure it definitely wasn’t as fun as window shopping with Joey and it will cost me first drink when we do catch up tomorrow…but at least the parentals can be proud 🙂

One thing I didn’t do though was work last night.  I thought I might give it a go as with Justin gone there would be not much to do…but I found something worth doing.  I have a history of taking delayed advice.  Tell me about an awesome band and odds are I will 😉 😉 buy the CD 😉 😉 and leave it on my iPod for 12 months before I actually listen to it.  Lend me a DVD of an awesome movie or TV show and odds are that I will leave it on my shelf for a while before actually watching it (Case and point is the Damages Season 1 DVD Siobhan lent me haha).

Well one show that was recommended to me by BritCuz, AKA Riza, was “The Inbetweeners.”  I think at one stage we were even going to watch it when I was staying at Ham but I never got round to.  Well last night I watched all 6 episodes of season one and loved it.  Its a funny, quite spot on show about “6 formers”  (Read as like year 11/12ers my aussie family and friends) in a british school who aren’t total outcasts or the most popular kids…but they fall somewhere in between.   It probably isn’t ‘parent friendly’ but not many of my favourite shows like South Park, Weeds, Dexter, etc are…but it is great!  The only slightly scary thing is that there are a lot of similarities I can see with my high school year, and I am probably not yet old enough to refer to those years as the distant past :/

Check it out sometime if you get the chance…there is even a new season coming out in a month or so!

Anyway so after making some progress with my studies today, they are back on the backburner.  Tonight I am off to Scarborough…don’t ask me where it is, I don’t know.  I think Justin and I learnt that it is some sort of beach town by one of the exhibits in the York Castle Museum.  The reason I don’t care where it is or what it is, is that I am only going there as a gateway to Narnia :p  I have mentioned it before, but Ben and I have planned a night to watch some, if not all, of the old BBC Narnia series and it just happens to be occurring tonight in Ben’s holiday house in Scarborough.  I head back to Leeds tomorrow at 1pm and then am seeing Joey tomorrow afternoon…  A busy 24 ahead of me, before I once again hit the books hard on Wednesday and Thursday 🙂

March 24, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

They love me like I was a brother, They protect me, listen to me, They dug me my very own garden, Gave me sunshine, made me happy…

The blog has been quiet and that is because I have been spending my weekend seeing my first ‘Casinader’ in 3 months.  Justin arrived  from Prague on Friday afternoon and an hour or two ago he headed back.  It was a great weekend as not only did I get ‘that family connection’ you need while you’re away but I was also able to show off ‘my town’ and ‘my life’ in Leeds on top of catching up with Justin for the first time in 6 months.

My first task was to figure out how to get to Leeds Bradford International Airport to meet Justin when his flight arrived at 5:20pm on friday.  It turns out there is a very good bus that leaves from the Station that gets there, costs only a 2 pound 50 and is easy enough.  The main problem is that it takes 40mins but it is reliable, very reliable, as I walked off the bus at 5:19pm just as the timetable had said.
There was a little waiting around but eventually Justin emerged through the somewhat dodgy electronic doors…looking not any different to when he left.  His accent hadn’t even changed and besides being greeted with an awesome big bottle of Czech spirits, his surprise that “everything is in English” and the stories about our respective trips/lives abroad – not much had changed.  It could’ve probably have been happening in Huntingdale, Australia…although the odds of us actually ‘hanging out’ back when we were both in Australia were somewhat limited haha

As the bus got back in to Leeds, we alighted and began to stroll through the city.  Justin was slightly surprised at how small the city was (walking from side to side in a matter of 15 mins) and that the buildings were “actually old”.  These were two observations that most of us Australian International students had made when we arrived.  I showed him all corners of the city as we walked and talked.  My attempts to be a tour guide were somewhat lacking as I didn’t necessarily know what each building was – something Justin was quick to point out 😛 The weather was our friend though, as it was for the entire weekend, both of us “europeans” embracing the warmth that was double figures!

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“It is the town hall….not quite, but something ‘town hall-y”

Eventually it was dinner time and after encountering a booked our Spice Quarter we went to “Brown’s” an ‘expensive restaurant (or so us students had thought) in the city.  It turns out both our steaks were great and neither cost that much more than any other restaurant in town.  More discussion was had and Justin had been able to point out that my use of “cheers” had increased exponentially since I arrived here.  Something I hadn’t noticed.  I hadn’t even noticed how common the phrase is among the British.

After dinner I showed Juz the uni and we went for a pint or two at the Eldon.  Although we made sure we went to bed quite early as Saturday was going to be a full day.  I say bed…although as Justin will atest, he had to sleep on the floor (with my tiny dorm room not being made for multiple occupancy). He did have a pillow and doona borrowed from Josh, but it took until night two for us to realise a pile of jumpers and shirts could take the edge off what he described as a “hard floor”.  It turns out, according to him, there are hard and soft floors haha

Saturday, after getting up early and grabbing a coffee thanks to Justin’s university life being years behind him, we took the train to York. I had been told repeatedly by people that “I HAD TO SEE YORK” and I can see why. It was a lovely ‘English’ city, full of history, full of character and it was great to show Justin a different side of English life.

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The main tourist sight in York is the York Minster.  It is an amazing gothic building and for the relatively cheap price of 8 quid (or 9.5 for the ‘adult’ Justin) you got to see quite a lot.  The main church part was amazing.  The pure scale and detail of the building was breathtaking.  There was such an ‘age’ to the building and its fixtures that it really just leaves your jaw opened.  For example there was stained glass windows from the early 1400s!!!

Also at the York Minster you can walk through the crypt and below the main church floor and a history of the site is given.  Not only does it explain its use through Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Norman times, but through excavation you can actually see the remains of the buildings that stood at this site.  The actual concept for human occupation being here for so long that the ground level has risen a metre or so was astounding to both of us.  Unlike most other churches I have visited so far, the ability to have a museum of its history that was really well organised was a true plus.

The final part of the York Minster to explore was the tower.  A tiny staircase of 280 odd stairs leads the way it is managed to a military level to ensure people flow smoothly.  I was a little surprised that some people took the trip up the tower as the size of the small stair case, the height of the tower and exercise it was to get up was made abundantly clear…but of course there were some people who got half way up and couldn’t go any further – this lead to an interesting exercise as only one person can fit on each step at any one time and how does one person in a middle of a file of 40 people change direction? 😛  The views from the top were amazing though.  It was a little ambitious to list Leeds and Edinburgh on the “can you see it?” signs at the top, but the perspective of the town was great.  After a “knee hurting” trek down the stairs it was lunch time.

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Making the most of being in England we went to a lovely little restaurant with great service and Roast Lamb on offer (gravy, vegies, yorkshire pudding, potatoes and all :)).  Justin lamented his inability to get lamb in Prague, although on top of lamb his trip to Leeds also allowed him to stock up on Cadbury Creme Egges (24 of ’em), Cold/Flu drugs and an AFL Football courtesy of ‘Simon’s Courier service’.

After lunch we then explored York.  There were amazing little streets and markets filled with interesting little stores.  Of note were the more Chocolate and Fudge shops than you could ever imagine and a oil painting store that lead to my ‘future’ promise of buying Justin a cricket oil painting when I am a “rich ass lawyer”.  York had many things on offer such as Clifford’s Tower and the Viking world but we decided to see the York Castle Museum and the Model Railway (supposedly reliving Justin’s childhood but anyone who knows him knows…that childhood is still being lived in some respects :P).

The York Castle Museum was pretty cool.  Although it was a consensus that it was the most bizarre museum we have ever been in to.  The mock up of the old Victorian street was great, like most of the Museum it helped give us ‘foreigners’ a picture of English history, although I must admit finding historical inaccuracies with the world map from 1890-9 showing Australia named such with the Northern Territory and ACT clearly labelled as well.  What got weirder was that there was ‘no flow’ to the museum.  One minute you would be in an exhibit on Victorian costume and then you would be seeing toys of all ages with little chronological or logical flow before you were seeing costumes from World War Two, some prison cells and an exhibit on the 1960s.  Most of the items were interesting and there was many points of discussion (the 80s kitchen giving us a few childhood memories of ‘gobble gobbles’ and the like).  It just made no sense how they were arranged!

The model railway wasn’t the largest one we have ever seen, but it was still quite detailed.  I am still amazed at how many different types of people, places and things that can be bought or made for these environments.  Also pushing buttons to rotate a Hills Hoist or start/stop a train is always fun! Not matter how young (or in our case old) the kid is.

We then headed back to Leeds (on a larger train ;)) both quite exhausted after a long day.  After we dropped stuff back at Sentinel Towers we headed off for dinner at Akhmal’s.  Curry and rice is always a winner and we were able to work out some of the basics about my trip to Prague.  Making sure that Justin would be there, that he won’t be too busy and the like.  Also making a few lists of things I should see around Prague and the surrounding towns.

We then had a few drinks at “The Library” (Where Justin’s shock and my non-shock at the numerous people in fancy dress showing how adapted to Leeds/England I have become) and the “Fox and Newt” (My first time in ‘the local’ confirming that I love English beer and Justin can’t stand it.  It was interesting though as our conversations as we sat and walked around ended up being about “why we like where we are” and the like.  Justin confirming that he ‘suits’ and likes Prague.  Simon confirming that he ‘suits’ and likes Leeds, while a uni student.  Justin and Simon both confirming that we LOVE Melbourne and that a lot of qualities in Prague and Leeds we like are just a few of the parts of Melbourne we love.  You can just love from a far 😉

Today it was another early morning and another coffee before Justin headed off on the bus to Leeds Bradford International Airport to head ‘home’.  It was interesting though as unlike last time, we were just saying goodbye for a matter of 2 months and not 6 months.  It will be just a few more ‘blinks of an eye’ before he is my tour guide around Prague.

March 23, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments